Bal Thackeray’s Shiv Sena: Is India’s original anti-migrant party in terminal decline?

Bal Thackeray's Shiv Sena is in terminal decline, writes Haima Deshpande in this week's Open Magazine. But the demise of India's original anti-migration party won't mark the end of the politics of bigotry in Maharashtra. On the contrary, it's just as likely to flag off a Scarface-like battle for succession among political parties that have all too much in common with street gangs.

The primary blow to the Shiv Sena was the exodus of Thackeray's nephew, Raj, to form the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS). Now, Raj is embroiled in a vaguely Shakespearian contest with Thackeray's son, Uddhav. And the results will likely be no happier than the ending of Titus Andronicus — given Raj's (not entirely incorrect) view that violence is an essential part of Indian politics.

Since the birth of the Shiv Sena in the mid-1960s, its singular focal point has been the ‘rights’ of the sons-of-the-soil, the so-called Marathi Manoos. While South Indians and later Muslims have borne the brunt of the party’s street violence, north Indian migrants have also come under its attack, of late. Scenes of helpless Hindi-speaking taxi drivers and Railway Board exam candidates left bloody-nosed by Sena goons remain etched in Mumbai’s consciousness.

The Sena’s violence and shrill smear campaigns against these groups has created a large constituency of non-Marathi Manoos voters who see the defeat of the saffron combine as a matter of self-preservation.

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