Bal Thackeray's party: Shifting alliances, single agenda

Bal Thackeray

Over the years, the death or exit of several influential leaders has affected the party to a large extent. The Sena today faces the challenge of holding on to its old-time loyalists and attracting young urban recruits, and launched the family's third generation with this in mind. Uddhav's son Aaditya was introduced as the Yuva Sena chief two years ago.

The party has had an interesting journey of alignments, once supporting Congress in a bid to oppose Left groups and increase its grip among workers at mills and offices, and then tagging the Hindutva line and being a staunch ally of the BJP.

In 1960-70, the Sena viciously targeted South Indians, calling them derogatory names. Thackeray spearheaded attacks on restaurants and theatres screening films by South Indian producers. Thackeray's slogans such as "Lungi hatao, pungi bajao" went with the sons-of-the-soil agenda.

In 1973, Thackeray announced a working committee of ten members. In 1976, a Sena constitution was formed and an executive body of 13 members named. "The party believes in a common civil code for citizens irrespective of caste, creed, etc", states the constitution, and, it "supports three language formula". The Shiv Sena pramukh (chief) "shall be the highest capital authority of the party and his decisions in all matters concerning the party policy and administration shall be final". The pramukh "can at any given time he desires delegate his powers/authority to the working president".

Despite electoral successes, especially in local body elections, it was only in October 1989 that the party applied for recognition as political party with the Election Commission.

Within a year of its formation, Sena contested the Thane Municipal Council elections and won 15 of 40 seats and coming to power with the support of six others.

In 1968, the Sena contested the BMC elections and won 42 seats. It began forging tie-ups to win Assembly seats. In 1970, Wamanrao Mahadik was elected in an Assembly bypoll with the support of the Jan Sangh, the RSS and the Swatantra Party.

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