Random posts on all sorts of things designed to inform and provoke.
Bal Thackeray, the founder and chairman of the provincial nationalist party Shiv Sena, was a charismatic and dynamic leader. Regardless of one’s opinion about his party’s platform, that man knew how to whip up a crowd and generate support for his policies. To the uninitiated, the Shiv Sena platform is to fight for the rights of the natives of India’s Maharashtra province and for Hindu nationalism. In that sense, the party has primarily supported a Maharashtra for Maharashtrans policy and secondarily fought against anyone who isn’t a Hindu. In any other province, this restricted platform may have blunted the influence of the Shiv Sena and Bal Thackeray but since Maharashtra is a major part of India’s economic engine, Thackeray’s influence extended all the way to New Delhi. As an example of this party’s power, the Shiv Sena was the party that changed Bombay’s name to Mumbai after the Hindu goddess Mumbadevi in 1995.
Nothing gives one more insight into Thackeray’s mindset than his professed admiration for that old German leader, Adolf Hitler. Bal publicly called Hitler “a wonderful organizer and orator,” and noted, “he and I have several things in common” recommending that “what India really needs is a dictator who will rule benevolently, but with an iron hand.” Given his nationalist fervor and admiration for the renowned German humanitarian, its not surprising that Bal was blamed for inciting violence against Muslims during the 1992-1993 Mumbai riots that killed 575 Muslims and 275 Hindus. After a relatively short illness, Bal Thackeray died on November 17 and, in an example of his party’s continuing power over Mumbai, two teenagers were arrested for complaining about the traffic jams caused by his public funeral on their Facebook page.
The Shiv Sena now faces a leadership challenge since, as is common with charismatic leaders, Bal did not leave a capable second-in-command, and, subsequently, his son Uddav Thackeray was selected to lead the party. Uddav recently announced that he would soon tour Maharashtra to meet party workers ostensibly to thank them for their work. However, this tour is likely being undertaken to shore up Uddav’s political support among his party’s members, generate some goodwill in the immediate period following his father’s death, and prepare the party for the 2014 elections. In addition, the party faces challenges from other provincial and national parties and, therefore, this tour is very important not just for Udday but also for the Shiv Sena.
What I am curious about is what Uddav will do to shore up his support within the party? He can only coast on his father’s popularity and family name for so long and 2014 is a lifetime away in politics. He does not have his father’s charisma so he can’t depend on that to charm the natives. It, therefore, wouldn’t surprise me if, in the absence of substantial support from within his party, and in the face of political threats from other parties, Uddav plans to incite something in Maharashtra to keep both his party – and by extension, himself – in the forefront of public consciousness. This action could be something as simple as protests against a movie that he purports insults Maharashtrans or a violent incident, which he uses to his advantage. Regardless, these are interesting, not to mention nerve-racking, times for the natives and residents of Maharashtra.