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Battleground zero for ownership of Shiv Sena

Updated on: 25 July,2022 07:16 AM IST  |  Mumbai
Dharmendra Jore |

Fighting a battle bigger than his estranged cousin Raj had imposed 16 years ago, Uddhav Thackeray is now locked in yet another over his father’s legacy

Battleground zero for ownership of Shiv Sena

The SC is expected to hear the Sena-vs-Sena fight through a constitution bench. File pic

Dharmendra JoreEknath Shinde wasn’t the BJP’s natural choice for the Chief Minister’s post but was a tactical choice. The state BJP president Chandrakant Patil confirmed this while addressing the party workers at Panvel almost a month after the new CM was sworn in. “We decided it with a heavy heart,” he said, after which the party clarified that it was the workers’ sentiments when in a surprise announcement Devendra Fadnavis was asked to be the Deputy CM. The clarification came notwithstanding the fact that such sentiments don’t fade away. It was a clear-cut move to avoid misunderstanding with the Shinde group of the Shiv Sena which is battling to seize control of their party. The Chief Election Commission has asked both factions to submit their claims with supporting evidence before it hears them on August 8, which will be a week after the Supreme Court’s next hearing of the petitions. The SC’s decision holds bearing on the very existence of the new government while the CEC will determine the controlling powers of the Sena and the owners of the party’s election symbol.

The SC is expected to hear the matter through a constitution bench because, as per the Chief Justice of India, some issues demanded so. The CEC has decided on such disputes in the past. It has allocated the election symbol to the faction having more numbers in the Parliament and state Assembly and also in the party organisation. If not satisfied, the CEC may even freeze a popular symbol, forcing both factions to have new ones. As far as the Parliament and state Assembly are concerned, the Shinde group’s nominees have been approved as group leaders and chief whips. The Shinde group’s defence against anti-defection law is that it hasn’t joined any party, but has revolted within the Sena. The first round of arguments in the SC from both sides is over. Considering the intricacy the court has a case that will have nationwide implications. Both Sena factions and the BJP have their fingers crossed.

Banking on support

Forced by an unprecedented rebellion, the Thackerays have gone all out to gather support from the grassroots party workers. While the father is holding the fort in Mumbai, son Aaditya has been visiting the fiefdoms of the Shinde group MLAs and MPs. Affidavits pledging support of the office-bearers and Sena workers to Uddhav Thackeray’s presidency are piling up. The numbers will be part of the submission to the CEC. The rebels have been avoiding a direct verbal duel with Uddhav but have launched incessant attacks on the son and leaders close to the Thackerays. In their public appeals, both sides invoke the late Balasaheb Thackeray’s Hindutva school of thought. For rebels, they are the victims of Thackeray, a flawed leader but a nice and respectable individual. However, considering some statements and allegations the rebels have made of late, the line of respect has been blurred, implying that the rebels actually bear a serious grudge against Thackeray, but have been holding back in view of the legal defence that they are still in the Sena. However, the ruthless arguments in the SC proved otherwise. 

The Raj Thackeray-led Maharashtra Navnirman Sena has lapped up the opportunity to reach out to share the Hindutva votes. While Aaditya is out there in public, Raj’s son Amit has been touring the state ahead of the civic polls and honing his leadership skills. Raj told a news channel the other day that he would give it a thought if the Shinde Sena wants to merge with the MNS. 

In banking, deposits and loans are important. The same applies to politics and to Shinde and Thackeray and the BJP as well. One day, Shinde’s deposits should help when the loan (the support) from the BJP is not sufficient to hold on further. His deposits are his 40-odd MLAs, 12-odd MPs (who will win only with the BJP’s support) and their individual vote banks. Imagine a situation wherein the mid-term polls are called if everything goes wrong for the Shinde Sena. The forthcoming civic polls will give Shinde an opportunity to prove his worth to the ruling partner and also boost the building of a dream party of his own. Even in merging with a like-minded party, he will have to prove his mettle. More importantly, he will have to keep his flock together because some of them have been showing the signs of being supreme among the equals. They are vying for a place in the council of ministers and projecting themselves as Shinde’s kitchen cabinet even as they blame their victimhood on the one Uddhav Thackeray had. On the other hand, Fadnavis has bluntly told the BJP leaders that though they have been working very hard, not all will get a membership of the legislature or the minister’s office. The BJP has the deposits, bigger than all parties, and it is well experienced in lending and recovering the debt with a compound interest.

For the Thackeray Sena, the deposits—the sitting MLAs and MPs may have dried up—but it still has a guarantee in the name of the late Balasaheb Thackeray that is being used to seek a public investment for electing the new faces. Thackerays’ distress call may not be entirely disappointing. When it comes to family-centric politics, the legacy of Nehru-Gandhi, Sharad Pawar, Mulayam Singh and Laluprasad Yadav hasn’t lost all its political sheen though there have been problems within their respective outfits. Fighting a battle bigger than his estranged cousin Raj had imposed 16 years ago, Uddhav Thackeray is now locked in yet another over his father’s legacy.

Dharmendra Jore is political editor, mid-day. He tweets @dharmendrajore

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