At the core of the Maharashtra crisis is the dynasty problem, where the not-so-competent son of an illustrious leader is trying to secure his own son’s future on the advice of his “kitchen cabinet”. Word has it that the reason Uddhav Thackeray became Chief Minister of Maharashtra was because of Maha Vikas Aghadi partners’ refusal to have a young Aaditya Thackeray as Chief Minister, and that Uddhav Thackeray became Chief Minister because he was more acceptable than his son to his MVA allies, even though he had zero administrative experience and had not fought an election in his life. Even if this is dismissed as political gossip at best, the fact is, it was Uddhav’s personal ambition and his desire to secure his son’s future that made him take the turn that he did—of joining hands with the enemy. BJP’s ascendance in Maharashtra was a major problem, as the Sena resented being the junior partner and the nearly three-decade-old alliance fell apart on the matter of Shiv Sena wanting the Chief Minister’s post despite having around 50% seats fewer than the BJP. However, Uddhav’s track record as Chief Minister has been less than illustrious, with charges rampant of him going the Congress-NCP way by abandoning the Sena’s “Hindutva” ideology, and seeking more validation from social media and a certain class of “left-liberals” than being effective on the ground. There was also report of Aaditya Thackeray acting as the de facto Chief Minister much of the time. Whatever be the reason or reasons for the turmoil in Sena, the fact is, among the rank and file of the party, there is immense unhappiness with the party’s top leadership. It would be lazy to blame the current impasse on money power. Lure of money cannot explain the exodus; the Sena is fracturing, in Shinde’s favour, right down to the grassroots. The letter of Aurangabad MLA, Sanjay Shirsat to Uddhav, where he accuses the latter of being inaccessible, is quite an eyeopener. Apparently, most Sena MLAs did not get to enter the Chief Minister’s Office or even the Mantralaya, the state secretariat, even once in the last two and a half years. There was no communication, as Thackeray had surrounded himself with a handful of people without grassroots presence. When Congress and NCP leaders have access to the CM and get funds cleared, Sena MLAs do not have any such luck and it is only Shinde who has been with them. Even if some of these allegations are true, it’s appalling and reminds one of the Congress situation, where leaders such as Himanta Biswa Sarma and others quit the party accusing Rahul Gandhi of inaccessibility, of not listening to the ground. In Congress too the problem is the dynasty, it’s just that the Congress manages the rumblings in its ranks better than the Sena.
Think of people like Akhilesh Yadav and Jayant Chaudhry, their family name is not helping them win elections. Jayant Chaudhry came a cropper in the Uttar Pradesh Assembly elections earlier this year. And even though Akhilesh managed to cross 100 seats in a 403-member Assembly, on Sunday, he ended up gifting his own erstwhile Lok Sabha seat, Azamgarh—apparently a Yadav family bastion—to the BJP. His cousin Dharmendra Yadav lost to the BJP’s Nirahua, in a huge setback for Akhilesh. What our dynasts do not realise is that voter loyalty to a particular family is a thing of the past. Unless there is performance, unless there is inspiring leadership, delivery on the ground, there is no loyalty—and that is the way it should be. Just being a Thackeray or a Yadav should not be a guarantee to success. The template has changed. It’s the age of perform or perish. It’s the age of cracking the glass ceiling. And for the non-dynasts in political parties, capable of leading from the front, the dynasts are the glass ceiling.