Shiv Sena celebrates 52nd Foundation Day: How a regionalist party positioned itself as right-wing force in Maharashtra

The Shiv Sena, founded in 1966 by the late Bal Thackeray, celebrated its 52nd foundation day on Tuesday at Nesco, Goregaon. Shiv Sena leader and Yuva Sena chief Aaditya Thackeray inaugurated a workshop for public representatives and party post holder.

Referring to the party's decision to end future alliance with BJP, Aditya said that the party would contest the upcoming Maharashtra polls on its own. "Till now, we have not tested our own strength. We kept contesting and were happy with what we got. But this will not go on anymore. We have decided that we will contest alone, win on our own strength and get a single-party government," he said, urging party workers to be prepared as elections are around the corner. "Palghar was the beginning," he added, according to Hindustan Times.

A party formed to protect rights of 'sons of the soil'

Political cartoonist Bal Thackeray founded the party in 1966 to protect the rights of the 'sons of the soil'. The party was formed to build a movement so that job opportunities in Mumbai would go to Marathi job aspirants.

It was the first regional party in Maharashtra to bat for regionalism and 'rights of the Marathi people.' It latched on to the pride of Maratha community by adopting Shivaji the Hindu king, as part of its identity. The members of Shiv Sena are also referred to as Shivsainiks.

However, it was somewhere around 1984 that the party footed itself strongly in support of Hinduism to gain traction in other parts of the state as well. It suited its ambitions well to further project Shivaji as the ruler who bravely fought the Muslim invaders and protected the rights of the Maratha community.

The current leader of the party, Uddav Thackeray, became the party's leader in 2004, although Bal Thackeray continued to be an important figurehead. After the death of Bal Thackeray on 17 November 2012, Uddhav became the leader of the party but refused to take the title "Shiv Sena Pramukh". The party has been striving to become the number one political power in Maharashtra under Uddhav's leadership. In the 2014 Assembly elections, the party gained the second largest number of seats, the largest number going to the BJP.

 Shiv Sena celebrates 52nd Foundation Day: How a regionalist party positioned itself as right-wing force in Maharashtra

File image of late Bal Thackeray. AFP

Party has been blamed for fanning communal tension

Shiv Sena has been blamed for the 1970 communal violence in Bhiwandi, when the party decided to take a Shivaji Jayanti procession through the Muslim localities. This led to rioting between Hindus and Muslims, in which more than 250 people were killed.

Then in 1992 again, it was the Shiv Sena that began protests against holding namaz on streets and the use of loud-speakers for azaan. Though these incidents were not violent, they added to the communal tension in the wake of the Babari Masjid demolition and eventually lead to riots.

The party still maintains that those Muslims who "don't consider India there motherland" don't belong here.

"Like my father Bal Thackeray, those Muslims who consider India their motherland, respect the laws of this country, don't ignite riots and live amicably, we have nothing against them - as far as the others, they have no right to live in India," Uddav wrote in his party journal.

In 2015, Shiv Sena imposed a ban on a scheduled concert by Pakistani singer Ghulam Ali.

Shiv Sena's anti-migrant stance

Anti-migrantism was a direct byproduct of the Shiv Sena's idea of regionalism and Marathi pride. Party workers frequently hit out at the migrant workers from Bihar and Uttar Pradesh and accused them of occupying jobs meant for Marathi people.

The most violent repercussion of this line of thought was the clashes that took place in 2008 between Sena workers and the workers from UP and Bihar. The Marathi Manoos violence of  3 February in Mumbai was the reaction to the foul language used by the north Indians against Maharashtra 'manoos' (people), after violent clashes between workers of two political parties — Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) and Samajwadi Party (SP).

Shiv Sainiks were also accused of killing CPI leader Krishna Desai in 1970, and it was alleged that Bal Thackeray had congratulated those who committed the murder, but he was never implicated in the case.

Alliance with Bharatiya Janta Party (BJP)

The party started taking part in Mumbai (BMC) Municipal elections since its inception. In 1967 they won 17 out of 40 seats in Thane's civic polls.

The party entered an alliance with the BJP in 1989, for Lok Sabha as well as Maharashtra assembly elections, the latter of which was temporarily broken in October 2014 Assembly elections but soon after Shiv Sena became part of the BJP government in Maharashtra in December 2014. It has been a coalition partner in the National Democratic Alliance since 1998, including the Vajpayee Government during 1998–2004 and the present Narendra Modi Government.

The Shiv Sena in January 2018 said that it will back out of the alliance with the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and go solo in the Lok Sabha and Maharashtra Assembly elections, both scheduled for 2019.

The problems in the alliance started in February 2017 when the BJP started slamming the Sena-ruled civic body and accused it of corruption.

Updated Date: Jun 19, 2018 19:56:18 IST