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Sena ready to embrace non-Maharashtrians?
A Correspondent in Mumbai |
July 09, 2004 19:15 IST
Just two months ahead of the crucial Maharashtra assembly election, the main opposition Shiv Sena is meeting in Aurangabad in Marathwada for a two-day conclave starting Saturday.
That some plain-talking is going to take place at the conclave became apparent when the party managers called off plans to take a team of journalists from Mumbai to cover the event.
It will now be two days of closed-door deliberations and there won't even be any press conferences.
The Shiv Sena suffered major reverses in the last general election in the state -- the worst being its route in Mumbai, long considered its stronghold. The party won only one of the six Lok Sabha seats in the metropolis. Three of its stalwarts -- former Lok Sabha speaker Manohar Joshi and two Union ministers Ram Naik and Jaywatiben Mehta bit the dust.
While the Sena leaders have not admitted this publicly, the party's 'Mee Mumbaikar' campaign -- a drive to discourage non-Maharashtrians from settling down in Mumbai -- is widely believed to have cost it dear.
Will the Sena then tone-down its rhetoric on Maharashtra, or rather Mumbai, being only for Maharashtrians?
This and several other crucial decisions, including whether the party should return to more strident Hindutva, will be taken in Aurangabad.
Shiv Sena chief Bal Thackeray has already made it clear that the party has had enough of its poll ally, Bharatiya Janata Party's, neither-here-nor-there Hindutva.
After the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance lost power in the last general election, Thackeray had publicly claimed that the BJP had paid for moving away from its ideology.
Thackeray also supported the continuation of Narendra Modi as Gujarat chief minister when there were demands for his removal.
The Aurangabad meeting will the Sena's last chance to tighten its belts for the battle ahead.