Worried over loss of face: Raj and Uddhav Thackeray shying from electoral slaughter

Did you notice that Uddhav Thackeray, Shiv Sena chief and his cousin and rival Raj Thackeray, Maharashtra Navnirman Sena chief, both aspiring to form a government on their own party’s strength, are fighting shy of contesting a seat each?

Uddhav Thackeray is leading a vituperative, stinging, vindictive campaign against his former ally the BJP, and incidentally, it would seem, see infliction of collateral damage on the Congress and the Nationalist Congress Party. He has to stymie BJP’s perception of a Narendra Modi wave.

Raj Thackeray, a former admirer of Modi, who was gung-ho about him during the Lok Sabha polls, is now running him down as a ‘Prime Minister for Gujarat.’ He had held last minute adjustment dialogue with his rival cousin and has a much clearer blueprint for the state which is out there on the stump everywhere.


Raj and Uddhav from whatever they have said, do not see it fit to contest the elections. Agencies

Both, from whatever they have said, do not see it fit to contest the elections. Their traditional excuse being that it was not in the Thackeray’s DNA. They are rulers without elected office if and when their party – now parties – get power. If they don’t,  they will be looking for a seat.

If their party got to rule post October 19 vote count, they would contest. Uddhav does not explain his 'conditions apply' choice, but has been asking persistent media this: "Why shouldn't I become the chief minister? Why shouldn't I aspire to be one?" Why would anyone stop him if his party came to power?

The MNS chief’s explanation for his facsimile attitude is along these lines.

"If the MNS comes to power, I will myself take the responsibility of (being) the chief minister", he told the Idea Exchange of The Indian Express. A moment later, he added, "If the MNS comes to power, I will definitely contest the elections".

Far more expansive than his elder cousin, he says, "I have to campaign all over Maharashtra. Instead of thinking about a single constituency, I have decided to regard the whole of Maharashtra as my constituency and campaign accordingly”. He cites some examples too.

"Narendra Modi first became Gujarat CM and then contested elections. A party like BJP was behind him. Chadrababu had the goodwill of the NTR backing him. Jayalalitha had MGR behind her. All of them already had parties. As I have myself established the MNS, the challenge is a big one."

These preferences and arguments hide a single point: it needs some chutzpah to go out there and win for oneself a seat than sending others out to the electoral slaughter. Neither can afford a loss of face, though big names in India’s political history, including Indira Gandhi, have been disfavoured as a candidate in an election and survived.

The two gentlemen run their parties on the basis of their strength, either felt, contrived, or assumed, that they are people who call the shots, and are invincible as persons. The swagger seen far more in them than in politicians of other hues stems from that belief. A Thackeray as a humbled candidate would be antithetical to their persona and its sustenance.

In electoral strategizing, there is something called "electoral merit”, a clearly Indian political measure to judge if a candidate can win a seat on his own, and if necessary, with financial props from the party. It does not matter if a person has a criminal record, a jail stay as an accused, et al.

Party bosses keep assessing if the likely nominee could win, is the topmost question when assessing the worth of a ticket seeker. It does not matter if he or she is an import, like the 51 from all major political parties who have been nominated by the BJP.

Win, or thwart the main rival is the doctrine.

There are leaders who are cocksure of the outcome on their seats, and not often wrong, like Sharad Pawar and Ajit Pawar despite odds against him who campaign all over the state and make a nominal appearance in their constituency… err...pocket borough. They almost have a proprietorial claim most often honoured.

However, it needs substantial courage and confidence that they would win. These days, when most of the campaign is through the television – advertisements and live relays of rallies – one needn’t be pinned down to a constituency. As Raj Thackeray put it, he did not want to be pinned down to one constituency.

Here are two examples. After one loss in a Lok Sabha election from a Delhi constituency, Manmohan Singh, despite being a prime minister, ran for cover to Assam to secure his Rajya Sabha seat. In sharp contrast stood the much admired man who later attracted much revile, Arvind Kejriwal of the Aam Aadmi Party.

He contested a Delhi seat for the Assembly, and simultaneous went on the stump for his partymen on the ballot. He also marshalled enough gumption to contest the Varanasi Lok Sabha seat against a biggie, Narendra Modi. It was far beyond seeking to develop a David and Goliath script; it was leading from the front.

When a leader backs out from the biggest challenge, the level of inspiration he or she instils in the followers get lower. Going on a blitzkrieg is one thing, and simultaneously exhibiting the ‘can-do’ spirit is another. The cousins have let their parties down, even if it were the mother of all electoral battles in Maharashtra’s history.

Look at the way Prithviraj Chavan scuttled to Karad on hearing whispers that Modi would hold a rally in that constituency. The Pawar’s have been delivering their ripostes when they are tub-thumping elsewhere, to what Modi said – ‘ending the slavery to the uncle-nephew duo’ but didn’t show their nervousness, if any.

A leader cannot explain the campaign across the state as a distraction especially when they have their well-oiled machinery which can run the show for the boss after he or she filed the nomination. That smacks somewhat of lack of confidence. Leaders in politics grow by a sense of adventure as well.

Updated Date: Oct 13, 2014 13:38 PM

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