As chief’s journey ends, Shiv Sena stares at difficult road ahead

In his lifetime, Shiv Sena supremo Bal Thackeray played an important role in shaping Maharashtra's politics. His absence, and the resulting flux, will play an equally seminal role in remodeling the state's political landscape.

Thackeray had carved a niche for himself in the state by creating a united front of the "Marathi manoos" and Hindutva, promising to correct the "wrongs" done to them. Whether any of the Thackerays will be able to lay claim to his legacy through their actions and have a similar impact on Maharashtra's political scene remains to be seen.

In the immediate future, Thackeray's son Uddhav will have to work hard to keep the restless flock of Shiv Sainiks under his command. Analysts claim that some could switch to the far more aggressive patronage of Raj Thackeray's Maharashtra Navnirman Sena.

"The middle-rung leadership of Shiv Sena is ambitious. They will need someone who will be able to provide them strong political leadership. Uddhav, due to his personality and recently due to his health, is not in a position to do that. In view of the 2014 elections, it will be very difficult for Uddhav to keep his flock intact," said Surendra Jondhale, head of Mumbai University's department of civics and politics.

Many blame Uddhav's failure to identify himself with any political cause. "Bal Thackeray had a legacy of speaking in political idioms and associating himself with causes that endeared him to people. Uddhav is just carrying forward a legacy and has not been able to link himself to any cause. Due to this, he has not been able to carve his own political space," added Jondhale.

While there is a growing fear that many disgruntled Sainiks affected by Uddhav's corporate style of functioning could hitch their stars to the MNS bandwagon, a section of political players, however, feel that the MNS could join hands with the Sena and form a "synergic" relationship.

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