Bal Thackeray, an Indian politician founded the Shiv Sena, a right-wing pro-Marathi and Hindu nationalist party, active mainly in the state of Maharashtra in 1966. He was a staunch advocate of the adoption of Hinduism as India’s official religion.   

Though, Bal Thackeray never held any official post or entered electoral politics but he was considered to be the most powerful man in Maharashtra. He was Hindu Hridaysamrat for Shiv Sainiks and often referred to as the “godfather of Maharashtra”. It was his political mantle that he was instrumental in naming Bombay as Mumbai in 1990 for the goddess Mumbadevi.

It is alleged that by employing illegal and sometimes violent tactics, Shiv Sena grew into a major political force in Maharashtra. In the state’s assembly election in 1995, Shiv Sena, in alliance with the BJP, won a clear majority and formed a collision government. In power, Bal Thackeray continued to be an instigator of controversial incidences. One such incident was the demolition of the 16th-century Babri Masjid in Ayodhya, Uttar Pradesh, in 1992 by his supporters.

In 2000 he was arrested on charges of having incited the ghastly 1992–93 riots in Mumbai, though he never denied the charges, however, he escaped unscathed on technical grounds.

In another controversial incident Bal Thackeray was banned from exercising his franchise in the late nineties for six years after he was found indulging in “corrupt practice by seeking votes in the name of religion”.

From the time of its inception, the Shiv Sena was in alliance with the BJP on the Hindutva platform and the biggest supporter of the BJP, in their shared dream of a Ram Mandir in Ayodhya.

Bal Thackeray never hid his feeling and opinions about top leaders of the other political parties whose policies and programs he disapproved of.

 About Sharad Pawar of NCP he never chided politely. Once, he not only declared that he would “never” align with Sharad Pawar’s NCP; he used the term “scoundrel” for Sharad Pawar during an interview in 1999. He called Congress party a “Eunuch”. On Sonia Gandhi’s entry into politics, he sarcastically remarked that he would prefer handing the power to the British, ‘who at least have had the experience of ruling the country for 150 years.’

 Uddhav Thackeray became the party’s leader in 2004, although Bal Thackeray continued to be an important figurehead. After the demise of Bal Thackeray on 17 November 2012, Uddhav Thackeray took the baton of the establishment and got elected as Shiv Sena president in 2013Under his leadership Shiv Sena joined the NDA government in Maharashtra in 2014.

 On 28 November 2019, Uddhav Thackeray was sworn in as the chief minister of Maharashtra is more than a month after the election results were declared. Even though the Shiv Sena and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) had a combined strength of 165 in the 288-seat assembly, they were unable to form the government in the state due to difference in power-sharing. This lead to the formation of a coalition government formed with Sharad Pawar’s National Congress Party (NCP), and the Congress.

 Thus, fortified by complex webs of deceit, treachery, and lust for power an unlikely, and a seemingly ideologically incompatible coalition of the Shiv Sena, Congress and NCP now governs Maharashtra with an agreed-upon common minimum program to uphold “the secular values enshrined in the Constitution.”

In spite of its firebrand Hindutva stance, forming the Maha Vikas Aghadi, a post-election a coalition of the NCP, the Shiv Sena and the Congress along with the Samajwadi Party, the Communist Party of India (Marxist), the Peasants and Workers Party and some independent MLAs do not come as a surprise to political Pandits. Shiv Sena has a history of flirting with political, ideological rivals. From backing Congress candidates in presidential polls to not fielding any contender against NCP chief Sharad Pawar’s daughter Supriya Sule to even tying up with ideologically opposite Muslim League, the Shiv Sena has had a history of flirting with ‘frenemies’. For winning the Mumbai mayoral polls in the 1970s, Shiv Sena even allied with the Muslim League.

Obviously, the Shiv Sena in Maharashtra has proved that its political ambitions are greater than its ideological commitments. It is now an open secret that the Shiv Sena employs Hindutva more as an electoral strategy to gain a competitive edge, rather than in governance. 

The Shiv Sena has until recently been taking a stronger stand on Hindutva issues than the BJP. Over issues like Ram Mandir and the National Register of Citizens, the Shiv Sena has played holier than thou with the BJP.

In August 2018, Shiv Sena came out in support of Narendra Modi’s government with respect to the implementation of NRC. Shiv Sena MP Arvind Sawant, who was also the Union Minister for Heavy Industries in Narendra Modi’s cabinet has lauded the NRC activity is undertaken in Assam. He further went on to say that the same needs to be implemented in Mumbai as well.

 Surprisingly, the current stand of Shiv Sena on CAA and NRC has become uncertain obviously, due to the pressure of its collision partners. When the Citizen Amendment Bill (CAB) was presented in the Lok Sabha, Shiv Sena voted in favour of the bill. However, when the bill was presented in the Rajya Sabha, the party abstained from voting and were not present when the voting process took place in the house.

On its part, Shiv Sena maintained that they staged a walkout from the Rajya Sabha since they did not get any satisfactory answers to their concerns over the bill and that they await the Supreme Court’s judgment on a clutch of petitions filed on the constitutionality of the CAA.

 Meanwhile, Uddhav Thackeray, the CM of Maharashtra and Shiv Sena chief while meeting a delegation of Muslim representatives recently, stated that CAA would not be implemented in Maharashtra.

Shiv Sena politician Sanjay Raut attended a function organized by the Islamist organization Jamaat-e-Islami Hind to oppose the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) and National Register of Citizens (NRC) in Mumbai on Saturday, 4th Jan 2020.

 Surprisingly, amid the controversy over the Congress Seva Dal booklet that claimed Nathuram Godse and Veer Savarkar had ‘physical relations’, Shiv Sena is quite. Its silence and vagaries about the construction of Ram Mandir is also intriguing. It will be interesting to see how long Shiv Sena is going to endure it.

 Sharad Pawar was responsible for forming the Maha Vikas Aghadi, a post-election coalition of the NCP, the Shiv Sena, and the Congress along with other small parties and some independent MLAs. Sharad Pawar is a well-known masterful but snollygoster politician, and he remains something of an enigma. It was his strategy that made the Sena’s Uddhav Thackeray the Chief Minister of Maharashtra, a novice in politics. The present political establishment and longevity of the so-called holistic coalition is going to be a hot potato for political forecasters.