As Uddhav takes a ‘secular’ turn, cousin Raj eyes floating Hindutva votes

Prime News, National (Mumbai), January 22:- While the Shiv Sena has turned a new leaf to ally with the Congress and Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) to anoint party president Uddhav Thackeray as Maharashtra’s chief minister, rival Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) may also undergo a transformation.

On January 23, the birth anniversary of late Shiv Sena supremo Bal Thackeray, the MNS, which is led by his estranged nephew Raj, will hold the party’s first state convention in Mumbai. Raj pitches himself as his natural political heir.

MNS leaders say the party’s flag, which consists of saffron, green, blue, inter-spread with strips of white, will make way for one that is completely saffron. This flag may also have the seal of the 17th century warrior-king Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj.

Raj’s son Amit may also be launched as a party leader in this convention, which will also see resolutions on issues like the agrarian crisis, economy and political direction to be taken, being approved.

Amit is likely to be given charge of the MNS student wing. In 1988, Raj became president of the Shiv Sena’s Bharatiya Vidyarthi Sena (BVS) in his formal launch in politics.

However, for the party, the change in the “politically correct” flag, which was designed by Raj’s schoolmate Jay Kowli, an artist and secretary-general of the Boxing Federation of India, with its colours appealing to Hindus, Muslims and Buddhist Dalits, goes beyond symbolism. They state that the change may also see the MNS toe a political and social line inclined towards soft Hindutva.

Sources said Raj wanted to change the flag before the 2017 Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) elections, but held back. Now, this decision may have been prompted by the present politics of religious polarisation and majoritarian assertion.

The transition to soft Hindutva may pave the way for an alliance with the opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). The BJP, despite being the single-largest party in the Maharashtra legislative assembly, has been left licking its wounds after the Shiv Sena broke off to form an alliance with the Congress and NCP.

However, this is easier said than done. MNS functionaries admit an overt shift to Hindutva may alienate sections like the Marathi-speaking Muslims, especially those in tier-II cities and rural Maharashtra, and also Buddhist Dalits, who, being followers of Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar, resist political Hindutva. (MR, Inputs: Agencies).

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