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HomePolitics‘Invaders and protectors’ — what Uddhav’s speech says about his political priorities

‘Invaders and protectors’ — what Uddhav’s speech says about his political priorities

From attacking Eknath Shinde to Amit Shah, the Shiv Sena chief sought to portray how they betrayed the Marathi ‘manoos’. Other themes include how Mumbai is important to Thackerays.

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Mumbai: Consolidation of Marathi voters, an emotional appeal to non-Marathis and Muslims, depicting the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) as an invader and the Shiv Sena as the protector, and revving up the party cadre with a generous dose of the Sena’s good old aggression.

These are the various notes that Shiv Sena president Uddhav Thackeray tried to strike in his first address to his party’s ‘gat pramukhs’ (group heads) from Mumbai in preparation for the all-important Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) polls in the metropolis.

This was Thackeray’s first public address to his party cadre after the vertical split in the Shiv Sena with Eknath Shinde leading a group of rebels to join hands with the BJP to form a new government in Maharashtra.

With the Shinde faction often criticising him for allegedly abandoning his father Bal Thackeray’s ideology, Uddhav made sure to pepper his 45-minute speech with ample references of how the party is following the teachings of the Shiv Sena founder.

He even adopted Bal Thackeray’s style of coming up with scathing nicknames for his political rivals — ‘Mindhe gat’ for Shinde and ‘Shah-neeti’ for Union Minister Amit Shah’s brand of politics. The Marathi word ‘mindha’ means someone who is repressed with obligations, indirectly alleging that the Shinde faction is under the BJP’s control.

In the same breath, Uddhav took potshots at the BJP calling it ‘kamlabai’, saying this was what Bal Thackeray used to refer to the party as.  The Sena chief’s choice of talking points spell out his political priorities as he prepares to protect his bastion, Mumbai.

Also Read:  ‘Fight like it’s your 1st’ — Uddhav tells Sena cadre ahead of BMC polls, attacks Shinde, Fadnavis

Protecting Marathi votes

The Shiv Sena’s vote bank in Mumbai has been the Marathi population, which the party has carefully cultivated since its outset when it slammed North Indians, South Indians and Gujaratis as ‘outsiders’ who snatch jobs from Maharashtrians.

Over the last two decades, there have been many claims on this voter base, first with the Raj Thackeray-led Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) making inroads, and later, the BJP trying to sway the Marathi population with development promises after its split with the Sena in 2014.

Now, with a new claimant in the Shinde faction, albeit relatively weak in Mumbai, the Uddhav Thackeray-led Shiv Sena will have to have an even tighter hold on the traditional vote bank.

Uddhav touched upon this by alleging that the Jan Sangh had tried to break the Samyukta Maharashtra movement for Mumbai. “Jan Sangh was the first party that tried to break the Samyukta Maharashtra Committee and break the Marathi ‘manoos’. This [BJP] is their ‘aulad’ [child]. Unfortunately, we entered into an alliance with them and rotted for 25 years of our political life,” the former Maharashtra chief minister told his cadre.

Emotional appeal to non-Marathis

The Shiv Sena, which was once synonymous with Mumbai’s Marathi population having started with an anti-migrant agenda, has held the BMC for the past 25 years. But with Mumbai’s demography seeing a rise in cosmopolitan voters, this has also reflected in the Shiv Sena’s politicking and electioneering in Mumbai.

In 2017, when the BJP came close to wresting the BMC from his party, being just two seats short of the latter’s tally of 84 seats, Uddhav had indirectly blamed non-Marathi voters, making it an emotional issue.

In an interview to Saamana, the Sena’s mouthpiece, Uddhav said the non-Marathi voters “did not respect that the Shiv Sena saved their lives during the 1992-93 riots.” He also warned that if such a situation arises again, the average Shiv Sainik may not risk his life for them again.

On Wednesday, Uddhav made the same sentimental appeal. “Today, the non-Marathi population is also with us. Gujaratis, Uttar Pradeshis…everyone is with us because during Covid as the CM I have saved the lives of all these people without any discrimination,” he said.

Balasaheb’s Shiv Sena and Muslims

The BJP and the Shinde faction of the Shiv Sena have been attacking Uddhav for ‘diluting’ its Hindutva stand. On Wednesday, Shinde even questioned if the Thackeray’s Sena has become “secular”.

Uddhav sought to emphasise that the Sena’s supposedly secular politics under him is nothing different from what Bal Thackeray had stood for.

“In 1992-93 when traitors had created a ruckus, my Shiv Sainiks had also guarded dargahs. This is the teaching of my father and grandfather. Shiv Sena Pramukh [Bal Thackeray] never said that all Muslims are traitors,” he said.  “Today, what is Shiv Sena and its Hindutva, they [Muslims] also know. So, they are also with us.”

In 2017, the Shiv Sena had fielded five Muslim candidates of which two won, and had polled a much better vote share in Muslim-dominated constituencies as compared with the BJP.

The Shiv Sena has had a contentious history with Mumbai’s Muslim community. The Srikrishna panel, formed to investigate the December 1992-January 1993 communal riots, had indicted Bal Thackeray, elaborating the Shiv Sena’s role in inciting violence.

Uddhav alleged that it is the BJP with its ‘Shah-neeti’ that is trying to create divides between Marathis and non-Marathis, Hindus and Muslims.

Invaders versus protectors 

One of the Shiv Sena’s traditional political claims has been that Gujarati businessmen have made money off Mumbai .

On Wednesday, Uddhav tried to rekindle the same narrative, but in a nuanced way as he slammed the BJP for taking away large investments such as Vedanta-Foxconn and the International Financial Services Centre to Gujarat, calling it “your state.”

He also alleged that Mumbai for the BJP may be “just a square foot of land to sell,” but for him, it is his “motherland.” The Sena chief equated the BJP to invaders fighting Maratha warrior king Chhatrapati Shivaji in his quest to establish a ‘Swarajya’ (self-rule).

“We are Shiv Sainiks who have grown up reading Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj’s history. While establishing Swarajya there were many (rivals) — Adil Shahi, Nizam Shahi…” Uddhav said. “Now there is Amit Shah.”

(Edited by Tony Rai)

Also Read:  Shiv Sena (Thackeray) revives nativist roots to counter CM Shinde’s claim to party legacy


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