The caste and politics of Sena’s rise and its crisis

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The political situation in Maharashtra is in a state of flux. One of the seniormost Shiv Sena leaders and Thane strongman, Eknath Shinde, has defied the party leadership, exposing the vulnerabilities of Uddhav Thackeray’s leadership. If Shinde is a Sainik in the old mould of aggressive, street politics, the rebel camp accuses Thackeray of being a weak administrator, inaccessible to his party legislators except through go-betweens, unable to stand up to allies NCP and Congress, biased towards his son Aaditya, and defensive over the party’s core stand of Hindutva.

How then does one understand this situation?

The Shiv Sena has always been an issue-based, reactionary congregation. It adopts issues and works on them till these are used up and moves on to the next. The first instalment of its politics was about the rights of Marathis against Gujaratis and then South Indians. It moved towards Hindu nationalism gradually, thus sustaining its…

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