The “never again” promise of Uddhav Thackeray about the Shiv Sena-BJP alliance ahead of the Mumbai civic body elections has received a vociferous support from the people, claims his 26-year-old son Aaditya Thackeray. The BMC is the most cash rich corporation of the country, having an annual budget of a whopping Rs. 37,000 crore and over two decades, the Shiv Sena has dominated it with four straight wins. But Uddhav Thackeray’s remark came following a growing perception of BJP Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis trying to get out of the junior partner image and defeating the Sena on its own turf.
Asked about it, Thackeray junior, in the middle of a rally in Worli, responds with an anecdote. “I was traveling on a local train from Tardeo to Andheri… when two people came up to me and said, ‘Great decision, but bring their arrogance down’,” he said. More than any of us… the whole atmosphere in the city is of bringing down the arrogance of the BJP.”
The said arrogance, he is quick to clarify, is not of Mr Fadnavis, who shares a warm personal relationship with his father. The bitterness of this campaign, he says, takes its toll on the equation between the two leading faces of Maharashtra politics.
At one point, the rath is interrupted by cracker bursting followers. Chants of “Jai Shivaji” rent the air. But Shivaji, the 17-Century ruler and the ideological icon who inspired Sena’s politics, is also under the threat of a BJP acquisition. The BJP is using promises of a Shivaji statue and memorial to woo the 30 per cent Marathi community that has traditionally voted for Sena.
Accusing the BJP of stealing things associated with other parties, Mr Thackeray said it was a “Jumla” that Mumbaikars won’t fall for. “If you see, there is a hoarding of the Chief Minister with a metro on it. And the metro has been done by the Congress… the jumlas go on and Mumbai doesn’t tolerate them,” he said.
The election, Mr Thackeray says, is not a ‘make or break’ one for the party but the Mumbai city – for which Shiv Sena is a “very organic party”. In his view, it is also the reason why the Sena and the BJP – at the Centre or the state – frequently go toe to toe. “If there is any decision from the government or the party that is not positive for the city, for the country, or for the state, being a political party we have to voice it publicly.”
If no party manages a clear majority, could a messy public divorce between the BJP and the Shiv Sena be forgiven and forgotten? Mr Thackeray says that eventuality will not arise. “I think more than marriages and divorce it’s the (people’s) relationship with the Shiv Sena which is unbreakable. It will be a full majority Shiv Sena BMC.”