Shiv Sena has wrested Ram from BJP, just like BJP took away Shivaji from Sena

Kamlesh Sutar
Kamlesh SutarNov 27, 2018 | 09:23

Shiv Sena has wrested Ram from BJP, just like BJP took away Shivaji from Sena

Shiv Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray made all the right political noises during his two-day Ayodhya visit.

Thackeray may have called the visit a religious one, but it cannot be denied that the move had political undertones.

Shiv Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray (right) with son Aaditya Thackeray and wife Rashmi Thackeray in Ayodhya. (Source: Twitter)

Even though Thackeray was visiting Uttar Pradesh, he was actually catering to his constituency in Maharashtra, and the impact of the ‘religious tour’ is likely to be seen in the politics of the state.


Experts believe the most obvious reason for Thackeray’s visit to Ayodhya was to exert pressure on the BJP, and position himself as a Hindutva icon.

The larger story has an interesting element. Before the 2014 Assembly elections in Maharashtra, the BJP was a junior partner, playing second fiddle to the Shiv Sena.

The Assembly elections were fiercely fought, with the two allies washing their dirty linen in public. Though the BJP had its presence in parts of rural Maharashtra, it was still perceived as a party from the Hindi heartland, and a party of Brahmins and Banias.

OBC leader Gopinath Munde, who was instrumental in taking the BJP to the rural areas, had recently passed away in an accident.

Shiv Sena had the upper hand as the local party, with an emotive outreach achieved by raking the ‘sons of the soil’ narrative and playing identity politics around Maratha warrior Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj, after whom the party is named.

In order to match the Shiv Sena's local connect, the BJP coined a new slogan: “Shivchhatrapati ka ashirwad, chalo chale Modi ke saath (With the blessings of Chhatrapati Shivaji, let us go along with Modi)."


Huge posters of Prime Minister Narendra Modi at the Raigad fort were put up with the slogan in every part of the state. The idea and slogan worked for the BJP, in building a new perception with a local touch.

The BJP also achieved its larger objective of taking away Shivaji from Shiv Sena.

The relations between the two allies were expected to improve when the Shiv Sena decided to join the Devendra Fadnavis-led government. On the contrary, the relations continued to sour, with Uddhav Thackeray's repeated attacks on PM Modi and BJP president Amit Shah.

Always looking out for opportunities to outmanoeuvre the BJP, the Shiv Sena found one such big chance in the form of the Ayodhya issue. Uddhav, in his annual Dussehra rally, announced he would go to Ayodhya to seek answers from the Centre on the delay in the construction of the Ram temple.

The Shiv Sena chief had announced during his Dusshera speech that he would visit Ayodhya. (Source: India Today)

Uddhav during his Ayodhya tour got a great response, giving his party the much-required saffron shot in the arm. At one function, he was even addressed as the 'Hindu Hriday Samrat' (king of Hindu hearts).


Usually, one hears slogans of 'Jai Shivaji' during any Shiv Sena function, but in Ayodhya, there were additional chants of 'Jai Shri Ram'. Even before Uddhav went to Ayodhya, pictures of Lord Ram and the proposed Ram temple were already being seen at Shiv Sena programmes in Maharashtra. 

When Uddhav visited the makeshift temple at the disputed site, he was warmly greeted even by Vishva Hindu Parishad workers, who were in the temple town for the outfit's own Dharm Sabha. Uddhav was the centre of attraction in Ayodhya during his two-day visit.

Local sadhus who attended the ashirwad ceremony at Laxman Qilla praised the Shiv Sena chief for taking on the Modi government. Just like Modi was seen with Shivaji in Maharashtra, Uddhav was seen with Lord Ram in Ayodhya, with a slogan of 'pehle mandir, phir sarkar'.

While it is too early to talk about the political implications of Thackeray’s Ayodhya visit, one thing that prominently comes out is the important role Lord Ram will now play in Shiv Sena's politics.

Not that the party has given up Shivaji to embrace Ram — it has aggressively pitched for the Ram temple and portrayed itself as a party openly talking for a law that would pave the way for the temple.

The issue will — in one way or the other — put pressure on the BJP, both at the Centre and in Maharashtra.

For Shiv Sena, it is also a sweet revenge of sorts — Uddhav has more or less hijacked Ram from the BJP, much like the latter hijacked Shivaji from Shiv Sena in 2014.

Last updated: November 27, 2018 | 09:23
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