Lok Sabha polls: Why Shiv Sena is rapidly losing its relevance

Mar 12, 2014, 08:12 IST | A correspondent

Analysts say a lack of communication between senior leaders and party workers has caused a disconnect; allies, too, are gradually moving towards the MNS, which has hijacked the Sena’s core agenda

In a press conference yesterday, Shiv Sena party chief Uddhav Thackeray claimed no one was as close to Shiv Sainiks as he was. The question is, do his party workers also consider themselves close to him? 

Many Sena leaders claim it is difficult to even get a meeting with Uddhav Thackeray

New problems
Of late, party workers have complained that it was becoming difficult to reach Uddhav. Abhijit Panse, the former head of the Sena’s student wing, claims that one has to send an SMS to meet Uddhav. This was not so before. “In the last six months, communication between me and Uddhavsaheb has reduced,” he says. Panse is a probable candidate from the Thane constituency on a Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) ticket.

Sena corporator Sheetal Mhatre, too, had highlighted the lack of communication a few months ago. BJP ex-chief Nitin Gadkari has openly said he had to go through mediators to talk to Uddhav. Narayan Rane and Bhaskar Jadhav are also other victims of this communication gap.

Political analyst Surendra Jondhale recalls, “During Balasaheb’s time, party men felt close to him. Now, even vibhag pramukhs and shakha pramukhs cannot meet Uddhav directly, leave alone the common workers.”

Allies moving away
This reticence has only harmed the party’s prospects. BJP, which once played second fiddle to the Sena in the BMC elections, now calls the shots. A senior BJP functionary said, “Just two years ago, during the BMC elections the Sena was the big brother in the alliance. Things have changed and we dominate now.”

Jondhale says, “BJP is trying to dominate politics in Maharashtra. Last week’s incidents (BJP leaders meeting MNS) show it’s trying to keep a check on the Sena.”

Many in the Sena feel the leadership doesn’t know the ground realities. A senior Sena leader says, “Our top leaders are surrounded by people who don’t know the real picture. They tell the leaders things they like to hear, but this won’t help them or the party.”

While refraining from taking names, the leader pointed out that the top brass lacked leaders of the masses. Uddhav’s core team comprises people like Sanjay Raut (Rajya Sabha MP), Rahul Narvekar (MLC candidate), Anil Desai (Rajya Sabha MP), Neelam Gorhe (MLC), Aadesh Bandekar (TV host) and others. Leaders whom the masses look up to — like Subhash Desai and Ravindra Waikar — are in the minority.

Rise of the MNS
Political experts say that BJP feels keeping MNS out of the alliance is not fair, as the Sena and MNS are essentially the same. MNS caused a major dent in the Sena-BJP coalition’s chances in the last elections. Analysts add that with the wane of Uddhav’s party, many will jump over to his cousin Raj’s side.

“The Sena is fading away in the assembly polls. Many from Shiv Sena will join the MNS or NCP during the assembly polls. Uddhav doesn’t have an agenda to suit the modern age and push for votes. How many years can you harp on the Marathi manoos or the Hindutva agenda in the state assembly polls? The BJP will need a more solid leader, and they see one in the MNS,” added Jondhale.

Jose George, who heads the Civics and Political Science department of Mumbai University, says the BJP is
trying to balance its stand.

“It (BJP) has realised it cannot only depend on the Shiv Sena. Hence, it is cosying up to the MNS too, because it wants to win the maximum number of seats, and it can do so only if both MNS and Sena votes come in,” he said.

Dr George added, “Uddhav is helpless now, because half of his party’s agenda has already been taken away by the MNS. He is slowly losing the grip over his party men.” Uddhav Thackeray may have to face some hard realities in the assembly polls in October.

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