The Shiv Sena is a Marathi ethnocentric and Hindu extremist political party of India.
The Shiv Sena is one of the most recognized political parties of India. It is also one of the first region based political parties to be formed in India. The Shiv Sena has a major influence on its home ground, which is the state of Maharashtra. Though the party has expanded its operations to other states and tried establishing a pan-India image for itself, Maharashtra still remains its only stronghold.
Shiv Sena was founded on June 19, 1966, by Balasaheb Thackeray, or Bal Thackeray, who was a cartoonist with an English daily. Thackeray worked at the newspaper till the year 1960, after which he went on to publish his own political weekly, titled ‘Marmik’. In Marmik, Thackeray expressed his personal sentiments about the contemporaneous migration of people from various states, backgrounds and regional affiliations of India to Mumbai (then Bombay). The feelings expressed by him were mostly resentful and hostile towards the migrants. While publishing these cartoons, Thackeray usually placed himself firmly on the pedestal of Marathi ethnocentrism. This instantly endeared Thackeray to the native Marathi speaking population, which enabled him to have a greater connection with his audience.
Soon enough, through the caricatures of Thackeray, Marmik carried the collective attitude of the Marathi bourgeois on a wide variety of subjects, among which politics featured as the mainstay. The native Marathi citizens and the unemployed Marathi youth also began to recognize Marmik as a way to voice out their deepest sentiments and readily pledged their patronage to the weekly. Egged on by such a large cavalcade behind him in his support, Bal Thackeray decided to take what he had started a step ahead, by forming a political party named ‘Shiv Sena’, meaning ‘Shivaji’s Army’. The party's ideology, among other things, was focused firmly on the protection and prosperity of the native ‘Marathi Manoos’, or ‘The common Marathi Man’.
After its founding in 1966, The Shiv Sena relied heavily on their ‘Sons of the Soil’ philosophy. While this stance steadied their ship in the eyes of the masses, the party couldn’t go anywhere with it in terms of its political aspirations. The Sena remained almost politically dormant for the first few years, that is until it found itself in opposition of the Communist Trade Union of India. The Congress backed the Sena as well in the hope of crippling the hold that these trade unions had in Mumbai.
The 1970s began with a bang for the Shiv Sena, and quite literally, as their supremo Bal Thackeray was held responsible for the murder of Krishna Desai, the CPI (Communist Party of India) MLA of Dadar, Mumbai. The murder followed a string of violent clashes between the Sena activists and the CPI members. However, Thackeray was soon acquitted of all the accusations made against him in the case, which was rumored to have been influenced by a very wealthy and powerful industrialist in favor of the Shiv Sena chief.
For the latter part of the 1970s, the Shiv Sena adopted a Pro-Hindu stance and increasingly emerged as an Anti-Muslim organization. In the coming decades as well, the Sena didn’t seem to relent this footing as it appeared to imbibe the pseudo-extremist image that had been labeled on the party by various sections of the media and the political community. The Sena was also seen as a cultist organization that upstaged laws and legal order in many of its endeavors. The conflicts that the Shiv Sena was a part of, began taking violent turns, which invariably led many observers, media and political opponents to brand it as a terrorist organization.
Thankfully, Shiv Sena had a person who was a true Shiv Sainik in every sense of the word. This man was Dharmveer Anand Dighe, who helped the Shiv Sena mould into the party that it went on to become. During his time, Dighe was mainly known for his generous nature towards the common man and his grievances. He also always had firm patronage from the Thane District of Maharashtra. Dighe always steadied the Sena's ship whenever it ran into troubled waters. However, Shiv Sena lost this greatly respected Shiv Sainik in the year 2001, in a sudden and mysterious car accident. Some of the most prominent Shiv Sainiks like Dighe are Subhash Desai, Vinayak Raut, MLA Eknath Shinde, Late MP Prakash Paranjape and senior leader Anant Tare. Along with these leaders, the efficient Shiv Sainik Rajan Vichare is fondly known for his major contribution towards the Party.
The 1995 Maharashtra State elections were a great cause of jubilation for the whole of Shiv Sena as the party had finally risen to power. Though the Sena was a prominent fixture in the political fabric of Maharashtra, it had never tasted success in terms of an electoral victory. The BJP, i.e. the Bharatiya Janata Party partnered Shiv Sena in its much awaited success, as the BJP-Shiv Sena coalition swept a huge number of seats all across the state of Maharshtra. Realizing that they’re going to be a part of the government of Maharashtra, the top brass of Shiv Sena decided to reshuffle the party structure. They also revamped the party’s policies of work and tweaked their political agenda a bit as well.
In the dying stages of their reign, the Shiv Sena was dealt a resounding blow by the Election Commission of India, which confiscated Bal Thackeray’s rights to vote and contest in the next elections. Reportedly, Thackeray had been found guilty of some corrupt practices, and for seeking votes in the name of religion. Thackeray responded in his public campaigning and speeches by saying that the Shiv Sena must be supported and brought back to power, as it had put in a tremendous amount for the native ‘Marathi Manoos’. He also remarked that the Hindus shouldn't hesitate to act against those people who pose questions against their religion and their identity.
Loss of Mumbai and Factions within the party:
For the first time since its formation, the Shiv Sena lost its political footing in Mumbai, as it was defeated by its rivals in the elections of 2004. Instead, the party began making inroads into the interior parts of Maharashtra. As this was happening for the first time in its history, the Sena had been shell shocked by the Mumbai defeat. Consequently, many differences began cropping up in the camp. Amid all the conflicting interests of the party members, Uddhav Thackeray, the youngest son of Bal Thackeray, was named as the working president of Shiv Sena.
There was a sudden turnaround in the Party when Narayan Rane who was a prominent leader of the Shiv Sena opposed the move and soon found himself expelled from the party in July 2005. Many members within the party, who were also close associates of Rane, followed him and resigned from their respective designations in the party. Like Rane and his disgruntled supporters, many people outside the party had also speculated that Raj Thackeray, the nephew of Bal Thackeray, was to be instated as the president of the party. This assumption was only natural as Raj resembled his uncle Bal Thackeray more than his cousin Uddhav did. Exactly like his uncle, Raj was also a cartoonist and displayed the same brand of vigor and unbridled aggression as Bal Thackeray himself, in his public rallies, speeches and mannerisms. Not one to be happy being in the background, Raj decided to step out of his cousin’s shadow and form his very own political party named the “Maharashtra Navnirman Sena” (MNS).
Recovery and Bereavement
The Sena recovered from the jolts it received from the split of Rane and Raj Thackeray, by performing steadily in the run up to the next decade. The 2012 Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation electoral victory was a major highlight in Sena’s Uddhav era. However, the celebrations were fairly short-lived, as after a prolonged battle with illness, the Shiv Sena chief Bal Thackeray passed away on 17 November 2012. The whole nation, and particularly all of Maharashtra mourned for this grave loss. The state was brought to a complete standstill and Mumbai wore a deserted look till the Sena supremo was given a send-off to remember. Scores of people thronged to Shivaji park in Dadar, where Bal Thackeray’s last rites were performed. The event was also telecast live to audiences across the nation and the world.
Following Bal Thackeray’s death, his son Uddhav Thackeray has taken up the reins of being the Sena Number One, with his father’s presence in spirit and the party’s dogma.