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Mumbai to Ayodhya, Shiv Sena re-connects with its hardline Hindutva past via Delhi

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Shiv Sena wants to show it has never wavered on Hindutva, while, it says, ally BJP has. This is the message Sena wants to take to the people.

Mumbai: While Shiv Sena MPs have been disrupting parliamentary proceedings to drive home the party’s demand for a Ram temple, the outfit has been promoting its Hindutva agenda on its home turf as well, apart from targeting ally, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), over the issue.

From maha aartis and Ram katha sessions in Mumbai to a major show of strength at Pandharpur, a pilgrimage centre in Maharashtra’s Solapur, the Shiv Sena has planned a series of events to emphasise its commitment to Hindutva at a micro level.

“The Shiv Sena has never wavered on the issue of Hindutva, whether it is about the uniform civil code, Article 370 or the Ram temple issue. We want to take this message to the people,” Shiv Sena functionary Manisha Kayande said. “The BJP and the Sangh Parivar have forgotten the Hindutva agenda. We want to show this to the people and also remind the BJP of its promises.”

Over the past few months, the Shiv Sena has been returning to its hardline Hindutva agenda after initially attempting to project a softer, cosmopolitan and a slightly more youthful version of itself under the leadership of Uddhav Thackeray, and his son Aaditya.

Last month, Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray went to Ayodhya with an entourage of party workers and performed an aarti on the banks of the Sarayu river, demanding that the contentious Ram temple be built.

The party has now lined up at least two more such events in a bid to also target the BJP.

Despite the two parties being allies, Shiv Sena is one of the BJP’s bitterest critics. The BJP, however, is still keen on an alliance for elections in 2019, which includes the assembly polls, even though the Sena has resolved to contest all elections independently.

Pandharpur after Ayodhya

Following the show of strength at Ayodhya, the Shiv Sena has scheduled what it hopes will be a bigger event at Pandharpur on 24 December.

The party has planned an aarti on the banks of the Chandrabhaga, followed by a rally in Pandharpur, where it will highlight the BJP’s failure to meet the “promises made to Hindus” as well as on issues of farmer distress.

Shiv Sena has tasked its senior leader Ramdas Kadam, also a minister in the BJP-led Maharashtra government, with the responsibility of planning and mobilising for the event, party sources said.

“At least one or two buses ferrying Sena workers will leave from every shakha in Maharashtra, and we are expecting a crowd of about five lakh Sena workers and volunteers,” a Shiv Sena leader said.

“This time, women leaders, workers and volunteers too will participate in large numbers. We couldn’t take women workers to Ayodhya last month due to safety concerns.”

The shakhas are the Shiv Sena’s most administrative units from where the party’s foot-soldiers are directly in touch with people.

The Sena, however, does not plan to stop at Pandharpur. Party sources said that a plan for another such event at Trimbakeshwar in Nashik is already being discussed within Sena’s senior ranks.

Also read: Modi’s dismal show in assembly elections gives Shiv Sena upper hand in alliance

Promoting Ram at the local level

The Shiv Sena’s local leaders have been organising Ram katha recitals at various places in Mumbai from 11 December to highlight the party’s demand for a Ram temple in Ayodhya.

“These events start at about 6.30 pm every day and go on for nearly three hours. Stories from the Ramayana are read out and acted out,” said Pandurang Sakpal, the Shiv Sena’s zonal head for South Mumbai. “We want to stress on the importance of the Ram Temple issue at the micro level as well by reaching out to people, and not just Hindus, but from all religions.”

The party plans to hold this event for nine days as a precursor to its planned show of strength at Pandharpur.

The party had organised maha aartis across various places in Mumbai coinciding with Thackeray’s visit to Ayodhya.

“We are already seeing some impact of us taking up the Ram Mandir issue strongly. The BJP has got somewhat disturbed by it,” a senior Sena leader, who didn’t wish to be named, said.

“To a certain extent, the BJP’s faltering commitment to Hindutva was an important factor in the party’s loss in the recent state elections too. Ultimately, all this helps in boosting our bargaining power with our ally.”

Also read: Uddhav Thackeray’s Ayodhya call has launched Shiv Sena 2.0

‘Strategy may not work’

While the Shiv Sena is leaving no stone unturned in showing that its commitment to Hindutva is stronger than the BJP, analysts think the strategy is unlikely to work.

Deepak Pawar, assistant professor at the Mumbai University’s department of politics and civics, said, “There is a difference between the Shiv Sena and the BJP. The Sena is a regional occasional Hindutva party, while the BJP is a pan-India Hindutva party. An occasional regional Hindutva party cannot be an alternative to a pan-India party or to the RSS brand of Hindutva.”

He added that the Shiv Sena’s activities are similar to the saffron wave that was created around the time of the Babri Masjid demolition and the 1992-93 Mumbai riots.

“With Thackeray and his family going to Ayodhya and now Pandharpur, there seems to be an attempt to create a 1992-93-like wave, but it is not possible now because the Shiv Sena’s temperament itself has changed over the past several years,” Pawar said.

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  1. I promise to vote for the Shiv Sena if they give us better roads, a cleaner and greener Bombay. Cannot speak for others, but its recent cosmopolitan makeover resonated with me. Bombay has changed enormously, as has Maharashtra, since the day Balasaheb founded this party. It must move with the times.

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