Hindu nationalist Shiv Sena fights for existance

July 1, 2022 10:00 am

[Source: BBC News]

Uddhav Thackeray, the chief minister of India’s richest state Maharashtra, resigned late on Wednesday after days of political uncertainty.

He seems to have pre-empted the outcome after the Supreme Court ordered his government to prove his majority in the state assembly on Thursday.

He was left with very little choice after most of his lawmakers turned rebels, saying they had no confidence in him and his coalition with the centrist Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) and the Congress.

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The rebels said Mr Thackeray and his party Shiv Sena had ignored their core ideology of Hindu nationalism for the coalition.

They holed up for days in a hotel in Guwahati city in the north-eastern state of Assam, thousands of kilometres away from their home state.

The week-long political drama culminated into Eknath Shinde, the leader of the Sena rebels, taking oath as the new chief minister of Maharashtra.

The rebels have formed a government with the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) as a partner. Former chief minister Devendra Fadnavis, who is from the BJP, has been appointed as Mr Shinde’s deputy this time.

The announcement surprised political observers who had predicted that the BJP would lead the government with Mr Fadnavis as the chief minister.

It’s ironic that a large number of Sena leaders have again joined hands with the BJP. The two parties were partners for more than 30 years until they broke up in 2019 over the chief minister’s position.

Mr Shinde said he would not stop after ousting his boss from the chief minister’s office. He said he would file a petition with the Election Commission to officially get the Shiv Sena name and its political symbol.

The Sena is at a crossroads. The BJP questioned its faith in Hindu nationalism after it partnered with centrist parties. And now it’s out of the government as well.

So, what happens next for one of India’s most influential regional parties?

The answers may lie in its history.

The Sena was founded in 1966 by Bal Thackeray, Uddhav Thackeray’s charismatic but controversial father.

Rebellion is not new to the party. The Sena split in 1991 when senior leader Chhagan Bhujbal quit along with several lawmakers and workers. Another leader, Narayan Rane, quit the party in 2005 and took several lawmakers along with him. Uddhav Thackeray’s cousin, Raj, left the party along with several lawmakers and workers in 2006.

But commentators say this time the setback is likely to leave the party demoralised.

Political analyst Suhas Palshikar says the revolt in the party “has started the downfall of Shiv Sena”.