The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Dos and don’ts begin to pour in
- ‘Balasaheb is still my mentor’

Mumbai, Dec. 18: Raj Thackeray should target the Shiv Sena’s Maharashtrian constituency but mustn’t make the mistake of adopting his former party’s narrow, parochial outlook, analysts and politicians said today.

Raj cannot hope to successfully repeat his uncle’s experiment of the 60s, when he floated the Sena as a chauvinistic party to serve Maharashtrians’ perceived interests and pander to their cultural pride, the editor of a Marathi newspaper said. So, he must broaden the outlook of his new outfit if he wants to emerge as a force in state politics.

“The slogans of 1966, when the Shiv Sena was formed, cannot work in 2005,” Kumar Ketkar suggested. “The issues and aspirations of the Maharashtrian people have changed; the demographics have changed. Unless he (Raj) addresses the modern young Maharashtrian, he cannot make an impact.”

Bal Thackeray’s party, with its fondness for the politics of vandalism, had failed to address the concerns of the average Maharashtrian, Ketkar argued. The wide acceptability that other regional parties like the Telugu Desam Party, DMK and the Akali Dal had managed in their states had for ever stayed out of the Sena’s reach.

“Raj can exploit what the Sena has squandered away through its anti-Tamil, and now anti-Bihari, movement and by blackening English hoardings' or through the protests against Deepa Mehta’s Fire. Unlike the BJP, which has an ideology, the Sena picked up issues of the moment and used them to create small-time pressure groups,” Ketkar said.

Former Sena MP Sanjay Nirupam, who is now a Congress spokesperson, agreed that Raj’s new outfit must broaden the Sena’s “ideological gate” if it is serious about emerging as a major political player in the state.

“The politics of hate (and the) politics of division of regions and language cannot work. The times have changed. This was the prime reason why I decided to leave the Sena. But I had no issues with the Sena leadership,” Nirupam said.

Ketkar believes that Raj can emerge as a new icon for young Marathi-speaking people the way his uncle had once done ' but only by working at a pan-Maharashtra appeal.

“He can’t use the same flag, but he can use the same discontent. He can’t replace Bal Thackeray, but he could emerge as a key player in state politics.”

Ketkar believes that the 2007 Mumbai civic polls and the 2009 Assembly elections would decide the fate of the Sena and its newest rebel.

Former deputy chief minister Chhagan Bhujbal, the original Sena rebel, described the news as a “blow” to the Sena. “It is sad to see two young leaders who grew up together placing their political ambitions before their blood ties. With the Sena further weakened, the state has virtually no Opposition now.”

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