MUMBAI: By gaining second position in the state Assembly polls, Shiv Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray has firmly established himself as Bal Thackeray’s rightful political heir and given a fitting reply to detractors who had termed him a weak leader. With 63 seats in their kitty, it is considered as the second best performance of the party after 1995 when it had won 73 seats.
Political commentators said that the victory is more significant because the party lost the leadership of Bal Thackeray, and was contesting on its own for the first time.
“There is no doubt that Uddhav has proved his leadership in the absence of Bal Thackeray. He ensured that the support of the party followers remained intact. He could have done better considering the strong network in the rural areas.
But, we have to admit that the performance by the Sena and Uddhav was good this time,” Prof. Jose George, head of department of civics and politics, Mumbai University, said.
Despite his leadership being repeatedly questioned, Uddhav took the risk of going it alone in the polls, even as BJP emerged as the strongest party in the Lok Sabha polls.
He also managed to underline that Shiv Sena-BJP alliance’s Lok Sabha success in Maharashtra was not because of the Modi factor alone, but that the Sena had a major contribution too.
Sena had got 18 seats in the Lok Sabha polls and both parties had got 47 per cent votes. In this election, the BJP got 27 per cent, while Sena got nearly 20 per cent votes.
Defending the Sena’s success in the Assembly, Sena leader Sanjay Raut said, “You must understand that Sena fought the battle on its own strength.”
On the other hand, BJP’s heavy machinery, including leaders from Delhi, ministers from neighbouring states like Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh were campaigning for the party. We are happy with our performance and we have proved ourselves in the Assembly.”
Under criticism for his leadership style and soft-spoken nature, as compared to the aggressive Bal Thackeray, Uddhav did his bit by touring across Maharashtra, planning every move carefully and strengthening the Sena’s base.
The battle for the Assembly reached its peak in the last few days when Prime Minister Narendra Modi personally addressed 25 rallies in Maharashtra.
Pointing out the seemingly apparent negatives in Uddhav’s leadership, which actually worked in his favour, Prof. George said, “Uddhav is not as assertive when compared to Bal Thackeray.
Though his soft nature was contradictory to the party’s style, he managed to attract the young crowd that is not in favour of hooliganism.”
Highlighting the leadership qualities of Uddhav, senior journalist Sandeep Acharya said that he had always been firm on his decisions. “After Balasaheb’s demise, no major leaders quit the Sena even though there was speculation that the party could fall apart.
Despite having a direct challenge from Narendra Modi in the Assembly polls, Uddhav ensured that BJP did not get an absolute majority,” Mr Acharya said.
Uddhav had decided not to go for a pre-poll alliance with the MNS, which proved to be a right decision after the results. “Uddhav’s skill to avoid division of Marathi votes must also be appreciated,” Mr Acharya said.