Mumbai: After the demise of Balasaheb Thackeray, who championed the cause of Marathi people and was widely recognized as the icon of Hindutva politics in the country, the big question has emerged- who will inherit his legacy- MNS chief Raj Thackeray or the deceased leader's son and Shiv Sena’s executive president Uddhav Thackeray. Speculations are equally high about the future prospects of Shiv Sena in the Maharashtra politics in the aftermath of Balasaheb’s demise.
Political observers are baffled, whether the followers of Balasaheb will abide by his last diktat to prop up the political destiny of his son Uddhav and grandson Aditya.
When Raj Thackeray was in Shiv Sena, he was seen as a natural heir of party supremo. His terms with Balasaheb turned bitter when Uddhav was appointed as party’s executive president in 2003. The rift in the party became apparent when Raj Thackeray relinquished Shiv Sena and formed Maharashtra Navnirman Sena in early 2006.
Balasaheb, sensing his deteriorating health, had advised both Raj and Uddhav to shun their difference and join hands to take forward his legacy. But seeing the mood of Raj Thackeray especially during Balasaheb’s last procession, it hardly seems possible that the late leader’s last wish will ever come true.
Raj Thackeray’s mood and demeanour during Balasaheb’s funeral on Sunday clearly signaled that no way a thaw in the relation between the two estranged cousins is likely in near future. Raj had also preferred not to be on the cortege carrying Balasaheb’s earthly body.
Political analysts say Uddhav has his job well cut after his father's demise. In the absence of Bal Thackeray's overwhelming personality, he will have to check the growth of its ally BJP, thwart attempts by the Congress NCP to undermine Shiv Sena, and probably risk an understanding with the MNS to prevent further erosion of Sena vote banks.
However, Bal Thackeray's rhetoric, ability to incite strong passions on any issue, bewitching charisma and powerful oratory, seem to elude Uddhav. Luckily, Uddhav may not even need these assets, given the changed social economic political scenario, increasing literacy, growing affluence of the average Maharashtrian, exposure to more than just the party mouthpiece Saamna, and affirmation that peace alone leads to prosperity.
Uddhav may be required to concentrate more on economics than politics, reconciliation rather than radicalism, nationalism more than parochialism to lure the younger generation of Maharashtrians to the party and its ideology.
After all, now the BJP and RPI could become more aggressive in demanding their pound of flesh, while Raj, often compared to his charismatic uncle, could prove more attractive to the Marathi voter and end up spoiling the party for Uddhav.
With the 'Hindu Hridaysamrat' (king of Hindu hearts) gone from the scene, the BJP will now attempt to project itself as the true flag bearer of the Hindu nationalism, weakening Uddhav, although Raj, with a soft stance towards Dalits and minorities, may refrain from openly adopting the 'Hindu Rashtrawadi' line.
All this within barely 16 months before the next round of general elections in 2014.And the clock is ticking away furiously.