"Due to some technical glitch, Chandrayaan 2 couldn't land on the moon but we will ensure that this son (Aaditya Thackeray) reaches the sixth floor of the Mantralaya (the Chief Minister's office) on October 21," senior Shiv Sena leader Sanjay Raut recently asserted, apparently declaring Aaditya as the party's chief ministerial candidate for the Maharashtra assembly elections 2019. Aaditya Thackeray's candidature from Worli assembly constituency assumes significance as no member of the Thackeray family has ever contested an election or even held a constitutional post since Bal Thackeray founded the Shiv Sena in 1966. Maharashtra Assembly Elections 2019: Shiv Sena Declares List of 124 Constituencies Where it Will Contest, BJP Silent on Seat-Sharing Pact.
Prior to his formal entry into electoral politics, Aaditya undertook the Jan Ashirwad Yatra, which covered nearly 4000 km across Maharashtra. The official aim of Aaditya's march was to "thank" the voters for the support given to the party candidates in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections. However, the unstated intention was to project Aaditya as the future chief ministerial face of the Shiv Sena. The Uddhav Thackeray-led party looks determined to make a Shiv Sainik sit on Maharashtra's throne and fulfil Bal Thackeray's dream. However, the timing could have been better. BJP First List of Candidates For Maharashtra Assembly Elections 2019 Out, Devendra Fadnavis to Contest From Nagpur South West.
1- Towering Narendra Modi Vs Rising Aaditya Thackeray
Since 2014, every election has been about Prime Minister Narendra Modi. All eyes shift to him as soon as he begins campaigning, and it's inevitable that Aaditya Thackeray will be sidelined. That's because Narendra Modi is arguably the only pan-India mass leader today. Aaditya, on the other hand, is a novice as compared to the BJP veteran. The towering stature of PM Modi will dwarf the rising Thackeray dynast. Even if we keep Modi aside, Aaditya may get overshadowed by Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis who is considered a far more popular leader in Maharashtra. While Aaditya is revered by the young urban class, Fadnavis has a strong base in rural Maharashtra.
2- Hindutva Nationalism Vs Marashtrian Pride
The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has breathed a new life to the ideology of Hindutva nationalism. Under the BJP-government at the Centre and in several states, the idea of a Hindu Rashtra is widely preached and accepted. Shiv Sena has been espousing the cause of native Maharashtrians and calls itself the flag bearer of Marathi pride. However, BJP's Hindutva nationalism has taken over the regional pride across the country. The idea of fielding Aaditya, at a time when Shiv Sena's core ideology has been superseded by its ally's, is tactically inept.
3- Shiv Sena Lacks Leverage
With the BJP returning to power at the Centre with a bigger mandate and the party confident of popular support after the Modi government's move to repeal provisions of Article 370, the saffron party is in no mood to play second fiddle to the Sena. Since the start of the alliance in 1989, the Shiv Sena had always contested for a lot more seats than the BJP. However, the tables have finally been turned. Despite some muscle-flexing by Uddhav Thackeray, the BJP is set to play the big brother of the alliance.
The two parties contested the 2014 state assembly elections separately. The BJP emerged as the single largest party by winning 122 seats, whereas the Shiv Sena came second with 63 seats. In the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, which the two contested in an alliance, the BJP won 23 seats and Shiv Sena 18. BJP's increasing footprints in Maharashtra has left the Shiv Sena with no leverage to play handballs. Hence, it has agreed to contest 124 of 288 assembly seats, leaving 164 seats in BJP's quota. A party needs 145 seats to claim a simple majority in the House.
If the BJP attains majority, it will never hand over the chief ministerial post to Aaditya Thackeray. Even if it falls short of the majority, smaller parties, independents and even Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) may come to its rescue. Aaditya will sit on the sixth floor of Mantralaya only if the Shiv Sena manages to win more seats than the BJP.
(Disclaimer: The views expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of LatestLY.)