Picture of Bal Thackeray and Indira Gandhi seen on a poster near Sena Bhavan, Mumbai.
On a day Shiv Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray is to be sworn in as Maharashtra Chief Minister, posters featuring his father and party founder Bal Thackeray with former prime minister Indira Gandhi have been put up in Mumbai.
“Balasaheb Thackeray’s dream fulfilled, Chief Minister from Shiv Sena,” reads a poster put up near Shiv Sena Bhawan featuring a throwback photo of the Shiv Sena founder with Indira Gandhi, a Congress icon. The posters served to highlight a rarely seen connect between the Sena and the Congress, which took weeks to get over its reservations about joining hands with an ideologically vastly different party.
Shiv Sena leaders say Bal Thackeray was a supporter of Indira Gandhi’s policies and the party supported the Congress more than once. Bal Thackeray had famously supported the 1975 Emergency imposed by Indira Gandhi, in which several opposition leaders were jailed, the media restricted and constitutional rights were severely curbed.
Bal Thackeray founded the Shiv Sena in 1966. He also set up the party mouthpiece Saamana and expressed his fiery opinions through articles and rallies, but never held any post or contested elections. He died in 2012 at 86.
Uddhav Thackeray, who has also never contested polls, is the first of his family to become Chief Minister. His son Aaditya Thackeray debuted in the Maharashtra polls and became a first-time MLA.
Speaking about the poster, a Sena leader said it was a phone conversation between Bal Thackeray and Indira Gandhi that established the Sena. “And it was a phone conversation between Sonia Gandhi and Uddhav Thackeray that established the new government,” the leader pointed out.
Congress president Sonia Gandhi was reluctant to tie up with the Shiv Sena, believing that it would greatly damage her party’s secular credentials to associate with such a pro-Hindutva, radical outfit. Top Congress leaders as well as Nationalist Congress Party chief Sharad Pawar reportedly convinced her to open up to the idea and take a more pragmatic stance in the larger fight against the BJP.
Congress leader Rajiv Tyagi said: “BJP formed an alliance with the People’s Democratic Party (PDP). Now that their alliance has been called off, they allege PDP to be a traitor. Our alliance is with Shiv Sena and that party has supported us on several occasions like Balasaheb Thackeray supporting Indira Gandhi. Shiv Sena had also supported Pranab Mukherjee and Pratibha Patil as presidential candidates.”
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