Late Bal Thackeray founded the Shiv Sena in 1966 and remained a respected figure in Maharashtra politics till his death in 2012. His son Uddhav inherited his mantle and in just one-odd month has done immense damage to his own party.
A look at some of his recent mistakes…
1. Announced himself as a CM candidate: The highest seats that the Sena has ever won in the 288-Maharashtra Assembly is 73. That’s a measly 25%, hardly enough to form the government all alone.
As of now BJP is the ascendant party in India and to take them head-on in such a ham-handed manner was the beginning of things going wrong for the Sena and Uddhav.
2. Greed: Prime Minister Narendra Modi, not Uddhav, is the most popular leader in Maharashtra. The BJP is on a high and has the Midas touch at the hustings. Despite that the BJP agreed to be the junior partner taking 130 seats and offering the Sena 140.
Any sensible leader would have jumped at that offer. Some reports say that the BJP might even have accepted 127-147. However Uddhav remained stubborn on the 151-119 formula of the past even though things had changed dramatically and that was naturally unacceptable to the BJP.
3. Extending the dynasty too soon: Political dynasties are the staple diet of Indian politics, but it is done with care. Jawaharlal Nehru never openly said that his daughter Indira Gandhi was his successor.
Rahul Gandhi was brought to the forefront in 2009 after the Congress did well. Mulayam Singh Yadav first became CM of UP in 1989 and promoted his son only in 2012. In contrast,
Uddhav has zero government experience and fought an election without his late father for the first time only in 2014.
And yet he hastily pushed his son Aditya. Sending him to BJP stalwarts for negotiations was a major blunder.
4. Parting ways with the BJP: Uddhav remained totally inflexible with the BJP, but when they indicated that they would prefer parting ways, alarm bells should have started ringing. Uddhav still could have met Modi at the last moment and sorted out matters, but he refused to do so.
5. Attacked Modi and BJP: Uddhav assumed he would naturally reap the anti-incumbency wave in Maharashtra. He had no strategy in place and did nothing different from other opponents.
He immediately started attacking BJP and even invoked Modi’s father which had no rhyme or logic. In the 2014 Lok Sabha elections all the parties attacked Modi instead of the Congress and hence the BJP reaped the anti-incumbency wave fully.
It should surprise no-one that the Congress lost 162 seats from the 2009 elections while the BJP gained 166 seats with “others” remaining the same.
The same thing happened in Maharashtra. Uddhav joined the Congress and NCP in attacking Modi and lost out. While BJP gave their best ever show of 122, the Sena got just 63 seats, 10 short of their all-time record of 73.
Comparing Modi to Afzal Khan would have been looked down by even Sena loyalists.
6. Not contesting the elections: If Uddhav was that keen on becoming CM and taking on Modi, then he should have at least contesting the elections. That would have energized the Sena cadre.
In the Lok Sabha elections, Modi contested from Varanasi and it is no surprise that BJP swept Uttar Pradesh. Uddhav could have gone for a similar strategy. Gone are the days when you could remote control.
Today you have to lead from the front. If you refuse to even enter the Maharashtra Assembly as an MLA, then what political hope is there for the future?
7. Arrogance continued even after result: All the above is in the past. Uddhav should have looked at the BJP-Sena seat difference of 122-63 and realized that he no longer had any bargaining power.
Instead of accepting the reality, he continued with his arrogant streak. While nobody will know for sure the exact nature of backroom negotiations reports came that the Sena first asked for the CM’s post and then the Deputy CM and finally half of the Cabinet berths.
To make matters worse Uddhav continued to pass taunts and attack Modi and the BJP through the Sena mouthpiece Saamna.
If the BJP forms a minority government then it is sure to go ahead with its development and reforms on a war footing with the full backing of the Centre. In such a situation if the Sena and NCP bring down the government, then they will face the full ire of the electorate.
A lot of people voted for the Sena thinking that a post-poll alliance with BJP was inevitable. They may not do so now if the government would fall.
Worse still with each passing day more and more Sena MLAs will be tempted to quit and join the BJP.
Uddhav is in a very tough spot indeed and he can get out of it with a bit of humility. Otherwise the decline of the Shiv Sena is certain.