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Shiv Sena- How a party formed to protect sons of soil is now a kingmaker in Maharashtra politics


Bal Thackeray, a political satirist and cartoonist formed ‘Shiv Sena’ in 1966 a political party, to protect the ‘sons of soil’ sentiment of the Maharashtrians in Mumbai.  During the 60s and the 70s, Mumbai saw a lot of influx from migrants from South India as well as North India. Shiv Sena took on   the issue of regionalism and rights of the Maharashtrians by adapting to a monicker styled after the Shivaji – The Hindu King. The members of the Shiv Sena, call themselves as ‘Shiv Sainiks’. (warriors of Shivaji).

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Shiv Sena became the first regional party in Maharashtra and fought for the jobs created in the state to be offered to the Marathi youth. The Shiv Sena attracted a lot of unemployed youth and soon the Shiv Sainiks became involved in various attacks against the South Indian communities, vandalizing South Indian restaurants and pressuring employers to hire Marathis.

However by the late 70s and the early 80s, the party latched itself onto a bigger ideology- Hindutva, perhaps the party decided to have a pan-India presence and attract more followers.

The Shiv Sena was also responsible to bring an end to the communist stronghold in the state. The then Chief Minister of Maharashta Vasantrao Naik has been attributed to supporting the Sena to counter the communist labour unions in Mumbai. Shiv Sena was labelled as ‘Vasant Sena’ by several journalists and political scientists. The Shiv Sena  also accused of killing CPI leader Krishna Desai in 1970, and it was alleged that Bal Thackeray had congratulated those who committed the murder, but he was never implicated in the case. Over the years Bal Thackeray and Shiv Sena found themselves in a number of controversies. Bal Thackeray, a self-styled demagogue, was known to  make inciting speeches. The Shiv Sena runs a newspaper, mouthpiece named ‘Saamana’ which is known to make puerile and vile statements.

Shiv Sena under their Hindutva ideologue Bal Thackeray became a radical outfit soon enough. Shiv Sena has been blamed for the 1970 communal violence in Bhiwandi, when the party decided to take a Shivaji Jayanti procession through the Muslim localities. This led to rioting between Hindus and Muslims, in which more than 250 people were killed.

Then in 1992 again, it was the Shiv Sena that began protests against holding namaz on streets and the use of loud-speakers for azaan. Though these incidents were not violent, they added to the communal tension in the wake of the Babari Masjid demolition and eventually lead to riots.The party still maintains that those Muslims who “don’t consider India there motherland” don’t belong here.

“Like my father Bal Thackeray, those Muslims who consider India their motherland, respect the laws of this country, don’t ignite riots and live amicably, we have nothing against them – as far as the others, they have no right to live in India,” Uddav wrote in his party journal. In 2015, Shiv Sena imposed a ban on a scheduled concert by Pakistani singer Ghulam Ali.

Anti-migrantism was a direct byproduct of the Shiv Sena’s idea of regionalism and Marathi pride. Party workers frequently hit out at the migrant workers from Bihar and Uttar Pradesh and accused them of occupying jobs meant for Marathi people. The most violent repercussion of this line of thought was the clashes that took place in 2008 between Sena workers and the workers from UP and Bihar. The Marathi Manoos violence of  3 February in Mumbai was the reaction to the foul language used by the north Indians against Maharashtra ‘manoos’ (people), after violent clashes between workers of two political parties — Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) and Samajwadi Party (SP).

In December 2003, Shiv Sainiks damaged the cricket pitch of the Agra Sport Stadium which was supposed to host the cricket match between Pakistan and India. In April 2005, Bharatiya Vidyarthi Sena, the student wing of Shiv Sena, attempted to prevent the India-Pakistan One-day international match being held in New Delhi. The protester’s spokesman demanded:

India should not play cricket with Pakistan till it hands over to India 20 terrorists, including Dawood Ibrahim, and closes down militant training camps running there.

On 20 November 2009, Shiv Sena activists attacked and vandalised the offices of Hindi and Marathi TV news channels IBN7 and IBN-Lokmat, located in Mumbai and Pune respectively. The Shiv Sainik slapped IBN7’s senior editor Ravindra Ambekar and then attacked IBN-Lokmat’s editor Nikhil Wagle. Shiv Sena attributed the attacks to the criticisms of Bal Thackeray by the news channel over his remarks on Sachin Tendulkar. Shiv Sena’s Rajya Sabha MP Sanjay Raut described the attacks as “spontaneous”. In Bal Thackeray’s last few years as his health condition worsened, his stance also softened. However, Shiv Sena still remained a big political party in Maharashtra. It formed government in 1995 and 1999. After Shiv Sena supremo Bal Thackeray passed away, the baton was passed onto his Uddhav Thackeray, Raj Thackeray defected and formed his own Maharashtra Navnirman Sena party, also formed on the agenda of ‘Son Of Soils’. The MNS were accused of beating cab drivers, bhelpuri walas and enforcing the usage of Marathi signboards in Mumbai.  MNS became the party to break into the Marathi votebank of the Shiv Sena and he looked promising enough like his late uncle to be the next ‘Kingmaker’, but destiny had other plans. The demure Uddhav, when given the responsibility of the Shiv Sena, worked wonders for the party. He proved to be more of a diplomatic speaker than his cousin who clearly needed more restrain on his speeches.

Bal Thackeray’s biggest moment in politics came when he struck an alliance with BJP in 1995 and formed the government in Maharashtra for the first time after tempering his strident pro-Marathi ideology and embracing a broader Hindu nationalist agenda. He ran this government by what he himself called “remote control”. However, he never occupied the post of chief minister. However, over the years, BJP-Sena alliance would have meant, them not seeing eye-to-eye on several issues.  The MNS was formed to dash the alliance of the BJP-SS in Maharashtra, but the party has now become desolate.

Out of the 227 seats in BMC elections, Sena has won 84 whereas BJP won 82 seats. BJP’s spokesperson Atul Shah who contested the election from ward 222 was lucky to have scraped through as he won by lottery.

Congress came down from 52 in 2012 to 31 in 2017 civic poll. Nationalist Congress party won 9 which had earlier 13 corporators in BMC. Maharashtra Navnirman Sena declined from 28 to 7 whereas Samajwadi Party won six seats. Underworld don Arun Gawali’s Akhil Bharatiya Sena (ABS) won single seat where his daughter Geeta Gawali won from Byculla. Bal Thackeray, had once fondly called Arun Gawli as ‘amchi pora'( our boys) as an answer to the underworld gangs operated by Dawood Ibrahim and his ilk. The BJP-SS alliance during the 2014 elections showed to the entire world that it was dangling by a single thread. Sanjay Raut, during the Palghar by-polls said that they are the biggest political rivals of the BJP, which loosely translates into that their alliance is on paper only. Over the past years Shiv Sena has been the only alliance of BJP to have taken them head-on in several political matters. Be it the demonetization or the Metro, SS has ensured that they have attacked the Narendra Modi led BJP government.

The Shiv Sena even announced that they would be contesting the 2019 alone, but it seems like that is going to be far from reality.

Shiv Sena, the most cantankerous member of the BJP-led NDA coalition, will vote against the opposition’s no confidence motion that Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government will face on Friday, union minister Ananth Kumar has claimed.
“The NDA is united and will vote against the motion.” the union minister said on Wednesday, responding to repeated questions about the Shiv Sena’s stand in Friday crucial vote.

The central government is comfortably placed in the Lok Sabha and there is no risk to its survival. The ruling NDA has 313 members in the 535-member Lok Sabha including the BJP’s 274, a lot more than the 268 that it needs to clear the test. Rest, it is left to the 2019 elections to see what shade of Saffron we see waving in Maharashtra.

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