A cornered sena

Where does the Shiv Sena go from here? In the party's life of almost half a century, this question is not new though the context today is different. The same question was asked when the Sena was isolated during the late seventies; it was asked again when it rejuvenated itself on the Hindutva platform; it surfaced when the Shiv Sena became the ruling party in Maharashtra and again when a bitter leadership battle resulted in a split between the two leaders who were supposed to jointly inherit the mantle of the founder.

It is natural that the question would be asked in most earnest after the death of Bal Thackeray. Thackeray senior founded the Shiv Sena, transformed it into a statewide party around 1990 and then led it to power in 1995 at the state level. He enjoyed huge mass appeal based on his personal image. So his death makes the question not only legitimate but also urgent for the party, which is not believed to have been in very good health of late.

But we must remember that for the last few years, Bal Thackeray was mostly out of action; he did not campaign much during the 2009 elections; for some time now, his son Uddhav, has been designated as "executive" president of the party, and most party functionaries and candidates have been handpicked by the executive president himself. These details suggest that the transition of power within the party, which many think is about to start now, has already happened. In fact, that was the main bone of contention between Raj Thackeray and Uddhav, leading to Raj leaving the Shiv Sena and forming the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS). Thus, the change of guard in the Shiv Sena had happened much before the actual passing away of the key leader. So the challenges Uddhav now faces are those he has inherited along with the stewardship of the Shiv Sena. Some of these challenges are worth noting.

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