Shiv Sena, secularists and politics of regionalism

February 4, 2010

India’s ruling Congress party and main opposition party Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) have found themselves on a common platform after Gandhi family scion Rahul Gandhi slammed the Shiv Sena and Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) for their tirade against ‘outsiders’ – mainly north Indians – in Maharashtra.

Earlier, BJP president Nitin Gadkari invoked the constitutional right of every Indian to live anywhere, in a snub to erstwhile political ally Shiv Sena, whose agenda is to promote the interest of Marathis, sometimes with violent effect at the cost of non-Marathis, especially those living in Mumbai.

Waving the politics of regionalism is nothing new for the Sena and its breakaway faction MNS, who derive their political base from the ‘sons of the soil’ ideology.


And so far, they have mostly gotten away without being prosecuted for their agitations ranging from destroying public property to beating up non-natives in the streets of cosmopolitan Mumbai.

The state’s ruling Congress-NCP government has also been accused in the past of allowing MNS to have a free run in Mumbai because of political expediency – as a counter to the Shiv Sena.

So why are the country’s two biggest parties now coming out with a common voice against the Sena and MNS? Is it a confluence of ideology despite differences for the cause of the country’s secular credentials? Or, after so many years of silence, is it just rhetoric with every party eyeing their respective constituencies.

The BJP’s cold-shouldering of the Sena, its oldest political ally, is seen by some as the outcome of political calculations under new leader Gadkari rather than a change of ideology, as it feels the regional party’s agenda is not in tune with the BJP’s pan-Indian aspirations.

Rahul Gandhi decided to take on the Shiv Sena during his tour of Bihar, whose people have fallen victims to the agitations of the Sena, ahead of assembly elections later this year.

Meanwhile, Sena chief Bal Thackeray continues to be defiant and his party is now training its guns on Bollywood star Shah Rukh Khan for saying he wants Pakistani cricketers to play in India’s domestic T20 league.

But despite cynicism, the civil society and media have welcomed the growing voices against the Sena and the MNS.

Will this signal a change in the fight against exclusivist politics? Or, will it be back to the usual politics after all the rhetoric dies down?

13 comments

We welcome comments that advance the story through relevant opinion, anecdotes, links and data. If you see a comment that you believe is irrelevant or inappropriate, you can flag it to our editors by using the report abuse links. Views expressed in the comments do not represent those of Reuters. For more information on our comment policy, see http://blogs.reuters.com/fulldisclosure/2010/09/27/toward-a-more-thoughtful-conversation-on-stories/

Seems the main political parties are finally coming to their senses. Dividing people won’t get them anywhere, development will. As for right-wing outfits like the Shiv Sena and MNS, their days are numbered. And a stronger media will only help hasten their fall.

Posted by ToeKnee | Report as abusive

BJP and Congress have found themselves on a common platform after Gandhi family scion Rahul Gandhi slammed the Shiv Sena and Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) ??????

There is no end to media’s lies. It is not “after or due to Rahul”. It was the RSS which took a stand first to protect North Indians in Mumbai. Being BJP’s ideological compass they had to follow suit.
Nice try to give credit to Rahul. We know this is all rhetoric, however, everyone is playing their own game to maximise their returns. The sad part, media is playing for the Congress’ heir. How low can the media stoop and how shameful can they get is to be seen.

Posted by Kautilya_IN | Report as abusive

Congress wants to gain some political milege with an eye on Bihar assembly election. Other political parties want to revive their charishma over Maharashtra people. There was no need to initiate this hopeless spat.

Ultimately who is going to suffer is a common man.

Posted by ksaach | Report as abusive

Did SRK shoot his mouth off to save his back, given the early reviews that My Name is Khan has been getting? He’s set the stage for the MNS or the Shiv Sena to be blamed if the film comes a cropper. Fox has Rs 100 crore riding on this one movie.

Posted by yadayadayada | Report as abusive

Its good that someone is taking the sena’s on and major parties are standing on the secular ideology. perhaps, BJP might have realised after loosing the elections big time last year. I agree with ToeKnee that a stronger media and stronger leadership should raise their voices against these criminals who divide people for their own benefits. I’m surprised BigB is in support of the sena’s, instead of supporting SRK who has dared it all to go against sena. Go SRK, United we stand!

Posted by vamshidhar | Report as abusive

media is pro congress and Reuters is no exception, they will go to any lengths to show that RSS does not do anything positive.
It is funny how no one is talking of Mohan Bhagwat taking the forst initiative and he is a Maratha Manoos.

Posted by IndianBeginner | Report as abusive

The struggle between the BJP and the VHP is similar to the struggle between mainstream Republicans and the conservatives in the Republican party. BJP cannot become a pan-national party by distancing themselves from the VHP but by cutting them loose.

http://www.indiafirsthand.com

Posted by IndiaFirstHand | Report as abusive

I dont think it is a case of being pro or anti anyone. The RSS chief should have spoken much sooner. What was he waiting for?
I would like to know the answer to that? Shiv Sena’s shennanigans have been going on for too long, it is a party forever in search for a vote-catching cause….

Posted by VipulTripathi | Report as abusive

why we pepole blaming austrailian Govt. if the same thing is happen in our country also ..shiv sena & MNS r doing samething in maharasta. & our GOVT. is seem like blind wake up………

Posted by kisna | Report as abusive

Vipul,

I agree that Bhagwat should have come out earlier against this. But that he did eventually is not to be underplayed. But not just the RSS even the Congress itself should have spoken up earlier. Why did Chavan wait till Rahul Gandhi brought up the issue in Bihar?

That the Congress also keeps a soft Hindutva card up its sleeve came out in the open after the last elections when they did nothing to take on the MNS, because it suited them. All political parties may not be devils, but certainly none of them are saints.

The party first, last and always; the country, maybe sometimes, when it suits them.

Posted by DaraIndia | Report as abusive

Mohan bhagwat is also from maharashtra. Half of RSS leaders are from maharashtra including its founder. Its battle of peoples from different mentalities than different localities

Posted by yogeshvaaher | Report as abusive

I am glad that the Sena and its Thuggerays are finally being shown the middle finger… Rahul’s act was gimmickery, no doubt. But this is one gimmick that was long overdue and most welcome.

Posted by Justlikethat | Report as abusive

“The 2 biggest parties give the cold shoulder to RSS and MNS” (coz the national parties do not reckon them to be a potent force anymore), “will not allow north Indians into Maharashtra” (A poor gimmick to garner local support and gain political mileage), “Will not allow screening of MNIK” (downright marketing/ well done SRK&co).- At the end of the day it remains a fact that their (RSS & MNS) insipid and senseless overtures will only make them a laughing stock and give enough fodder for the ruling parties to impose necessary sanctions on a now defunct outfit.

Posted by Rocky_1 | Report as abusive