After ECI Blow to Uddhav Sena, politics in Maharashtra in a churn

Maharashtra politics has been in a churn ever since the 2019 Assembly elections. From the breakup of the decades-old Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-Shiv Sena alliance to the ideologically awkward Shiv Sena-Congress-Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) alliance, the state witnessed a slew of changes in the last few years. Interestingly, the state has historically given split verdicts and coalition governments ever since multiple political fronts have pulled the electorate in different directions. Since the formation of the first coalition government in the state in 1978 by NCP leader Sharad Pawar, the state has churned split verdicts and coalition governments for nearly all terms after that. This has created a unique space for each party in the state’s politics but has also thrown open the challenge to maintain one’s flock amidst political manoeuvring for more power in the government and hold on the ground. Internal party fighting and rebellions have happened before too. The Shiv Sena has faced four rebellions in the last 56 years, three of them under its charismatic founder Bal Thackeray. In another example, right after the 2019 Assembly elections, the NCP also faced factionalism when party leader Ajit Pawar rebelled against his uncle and party head Sharad Pawar to form a government with the BJP.
The Shiv Sena appears to be the most recent victim of the state’s unique political culture. The party is closely organised around founder Bal Thackeray’s fiery image and street politics, and has been facing a change in its contours ever since Thackeray’s son and former Chief Minister Uddhav Thackery took over. The latter’s image and brand of politics are in stark contrast to his father, evident even when Uddhav was in his father’s shadow. Now, with the party’s internal factions having taken concrete shape with the Election Commission’s 17th February decision, what remains to be seen is how Uddhav Shiv Sena finds its feet back in state politics before the crucial 2024 Elections to the Lok Sabha and the Maharashtra Assembly.

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