The right wing Hindutva brigade has this incredible ability to never prove wrong its detractors. And just when one starts thinking that the going can’t get any worse, they pop up with yet another “surprise”. This time it is none other than the Shiv Sena. In two venomous editorials published in its party mouthpiece Saamna, the Shiv Sena has suggested stripping Muslims of their voting rights and introducing compulsory family planning for Muslims and Christians. The former remark came from a sitting MP named Sanjay Raut who paraded his brilliant suggestion as a necessary measure to put an end to votebank politics.
The 2014 state elections in Maharashtra resulted in humiliation for the Shiv Sena. They bagged only 63 seats, while the BJP emerged as the single the largest party with 122 wins. Predictably, the BJP formed a coalition government in the state with the Shiv Sena but not before some hard political bargaining and the traditional tantrums of regional satraps. This indeed was a historical moment in the Sena-BJP relationship. After having played second fiddle to the Sena in Maharashtra for several decades, the BJP had finally managed to wrestle control of the saffron leadership in the state.
The electoral re-alignment which we are witnessing at present has definitely posed an existential dilemma before the Shiv Sena. If the Economic Times is to be believed, the Shiv Sena fears losing the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) elections slated to be held in February 2017. The same article states that BMC has “has literally bankrolled the Shiv Sena all these years, despite the party coming to power in Maharashtra just once.” Winning the BMC elections is no less than winning a state election – not only is the BMC the richest municipal corporation in the country, its financial budget is often more than the combined budget of several states.
During the recently held BJP National Executive in Bengaluru, party president Amit Shah stated that Modi Sarkar “will be in power for next 10 – 20 years.” Keeping this goal of the party in mind, we can easily ascertain BJP’s keenness to march into states like West Bengal where it has never tasted power. It is precisely because of BJP’s imperialist tendencies that the Shiv Sena has started feeling terrorised. Emboldened by its stellar performance in the Maharashtra state elections, the BJP might try and replicate its success in the BMC elections in 2017.
If this happens, the Shiv Sena would be literally crippled. We have seen how Narendra Modi behaves once he is in the driver’s seat. Keshubhai Patel and Lal Krishna Advani are fine examples. Shiv Sena supremo Uddhav Thackeray could well be on that list if the BJP manages to lay claim over the BMC. Uddhav’s nightmare at the moment might be to possibly face a Rahul Gandhi-like situation for failing to do for the Shiv Sena what his mighty father Bal Thackeray did – why, he might even have his leadership challenged by his nephew Raj Thackeray. To avoid such a development, the Shiv Sena might be doing what it is doing.
The strategy seems to be simple and divisive. Return to the Sena avatar of 1990s which gathered momentum courtesy the notorious Ram Janmabhoomi Movement. The two controversial editorials which have appeared in Saamna hint at the fact that the Sena is preparing for a militant run seeking to polarise voters in the lead up to the BMC elections. If the ploy works, the Sena would yet again be viewed as a burgeoning symbol of Hindu pride in the face of Muslim appeasement. Indeed, this would shift the ultra-conservative Hindu votebank from the BJP’s clutches back towards the Sena and the ensuing polarisation would enable Sena to retain BMC.
Needless to say, this kind of politics is devastating for the Marathi populace as well as Indian society in general.
Though the ideological moorings of the BJP and Shiv Sena are pretty much the same, one can only hope that the Central Government is aligned enough with the Indian Constitution to consider severing coalition relations with the Shiv Sena which has openly espoused disenfranchising the country’s biggest minority group.
(This article was originally published in The Huffington Post.)