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How the Shiv Sena got its calculations horribly wrong

By N Suresh
October 31, 2014 11:27 IST
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Uddhav ThackerayBy the next election, the Shiv Sena too may end up like Raj Thackeray's MNS, says N Suresh.

The beginning of this story was just fine for the Shiv Sena. Its plans seemed well-scripted and the scales were tipped in its favour. After 25 years the saffron alliance was splitting. The Sena managed to make the Bharatiya Janata Party look like the villain of the piece.

Initially public sympathy was in the Sena's favour. The core script writers that included too many cooks -- Sena president Uddhav Thackeray, his son Aditya, his wife Rashmi, his personal secretary Milind Narvekar, other close aides like Subhash Desai, Anil Desai, Vinayak Raut and Saamna Editor Sanjay Raut -- all contributed to the Sena campaign. Now with varying intelligence levels and political acumen, it was but natural they got carried away.

Their vision was blinkered and they actually began believing that Uddhav may become chief minister. But they lost sight of their former partner, the BJP.

Uddhav and other Sena leaders forgot the most important point about the new BJP. It functions only under the orders of two leaders -- Prime Minister Narendra Modi and BJP President Amit Shah. The other names and faces of the BJP are immaterial.

Udhav Thackeray in his euphoria got so carried away that he forgot he and his party had been resurrected because of these two very leaders in the Lok Sabha election. The Sena had become hungry for power. After 15 years they were coming close to power and that made them forget the lesson Uddhav's cousin Raj Thackeray had forgotten -- to be humble.

Raj had bad-mouthed Uddhav over personal matters and belittled Bal Thackeray, the founder of the Sena. People taught Raj such a harsh lesson in the assembly polls he is rendered inconsequential in the state now.

Uddhav repeated the same mistake. He called Amit Shah and Narendra Modi names, compared Modi to Afzal Khan for letting the Sena down.

By then the pre-poll surveys too began showing a significant shift in numbers. The BJP was gaining ground and becoming the people's first choice, replacing the Shiv Sena. When the people gave the verdict, the BJP was the clear winner, relegating the Sena to a distant second.

One would have thought Uddhav would have learnt his lesson and accept his lower position gracefully. However he continued to weaken his position. He demanded that the BJP treat his party with respect and give them several ministerial berths. He demanded the deputy chief minister's position and worse said the Sena would support the BJP only if treated with respect.

His emotive appeal had worn away but Uddhav and his coterie did not get the message. People wanted a change and they had given the verdict in the BJP's favour.

In such circumstances the Sena should have maintained a low profile, instructing Saamna to not print a word on the BJP or government formation. Instead it seemed desperate for power.

But this is politics. Every opportunity opens up new possibilities and throws up new political equations. The Nationalist Congress Party wants to move away from an ineffective and rejected Congress party. It is willing to take the risk of shedding its secular stance.

The NCP extended unconditional support from outside to the BJP -- a shrewd, opportunistic and political move. In fact the media began drawing all sorts of conclusions including stating that Sharad Pawar was doing it to seek protection for his party leaders accused of corruption.

The fact is Pawar wants to leave a legacy. He has to show his political clout and ensure a future for his party.

Uddhav looks helpless and desperate for power. From having the edge and advantage, he cuts a sad figure today. His dreams of being chief minister are shattered.

It will not be surprising if the NCP gets more respect in this government. The BJP will use the NCP to finish the Sena. That will suit both the BJP and the NCP. Moreover, Pawar will continue to wield power and that will leave Uddhav a defunct politician in the state.

It may be a matter of time. By the next election, the Shiv Sena too may end up like Raj Thackeray's Maharashtra Navnirman Sena.

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