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A Sena in Search of Its Manoos

A Sena in Search of Its Manoos

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Published by Vijay Simha
Mumbai is periodically under rightwing siege. This is why.
Mumbai is periodically under rightwing siege. This is why.

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Published by: Vijay Simha on Feb 23, 2010
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial


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From Tehelka Magazine, Vol 7, Issue 08, Dated February 27, 2010 
shiv sena
A Sena In Search Of Its Manoos
Confused over the identity of the Marathi Manoos, the Shiv Sena is taking away a part of its past and risking a new future,says
WITH PRACTICED nonchalance, Jitendra Jhanvale took his30th call in about an hour. “All right. How many? Where did hego?” He cut the call in a hurry to attend to a group of men whobowed to touch his feet. They brought bad news. There wereabout 30 men around Jhanvale, a sort of a melee. Many woregold chains around their necks and several rings on their fingers. It was the sort of gathering from where Jhanvale, a ShivSena functionary who operates between Bandra and Andheri inMumbai, tends to radiate menace. Now, he simply sat.Jhanvale and his friends were in the Bandra police station, surrounded by policemen whose only jobthat day was to keep his group immobile. On the loose, Jhanvale might have found ways toembarrass Rahul Gandhi, a general secretary of the Congress and prime target of the Shiv Sena,who was in Mumbai that day. Jhanvale was apparently good at his job, so good that the Bandrapolice took him off the streets soon. They wanted to keep him as far away from Gandhi as possible.The Shiv Sena, for whom Jhanvale works, is a rightwing political party based in Mumbai that wasformed in June 1966 by Bal Thackeray. For a long while, the Sena was known by its violent attackson anyone who it thought was anti-Sena. It is now being forced to rework its politics. The issue of Marathi identity is not delivering as it may have done, and the Sena is in the midst of a major debateon the way forward.Part of the discussion is on how to curb its aggressive tendencies and move into fresh areas. This isreflected in the Sena’s approach to the Shah Rukh Khan controversy and its recent use of IT.Though the Sena seemed to be belligerent on the outside with Khan, it worked furiously for peacewith the actor on the inside. People in the know in the Sena, the Maharashtra Congress and thestate administration say a meeting was almost fixed between Bal Thackeray and Shah Rukh Khanfor a Sunday. Apparently, more than 20 telephone callswere exchanged between Matoshree, the Thackerayresidence, and Mannat, Khan’s residence, for themeeting where a truce was to be worked out.Just when things seemed to be falling in place, saySena seniors, Khan pulled out. Sources in the Congress say the party high command in New Delhiwas upset that a Khan-Thackeray meet would undo the damage done to the Sena by RahulGandhi’s Mumbai train ride in the face of Sena opposition. It is understood that the Congress did notwant credit to go to the Thackerays, however subtly. The message was delivered to Khan to stay off the Thackerays and he flew out of India. It was later made out that Khan was attending to thepremiere of his new movie
My Name Is Khan
outside India.That the Sena went almost all the way on peace with Khan is indicative of a possible pathway to thefuture for the party. Even when it didn’t work out with Khan, after the Congress stepped in, the Senabarely made a fuss in Mumbai. There was an incident in Andheri where a couple of Sena activistspicked a few stones from an adjacent construction site and hurled them at a cinema house. Thatwas it.A SECOND STRAND is the Sena’s look at information technology (IT). In the past, the Sena haspreferred the streets to make their point: that the natives don’t get the jobs they should. Now, theSena is forming an IT wing that will work on getting more Marathis into the IT sector, train Senacadre on how to use IT, and use the Net to expand. Sena seniors are being encouraged to havetheir own websites and become a little savvy for future battles. Though some of the MLAs andcorporators tend to have loud websites at the moment, at least they are getting there. The Sena is
On guard
The Sena took on SRK butthe Bollywood star won the bout
also hoping that it might attract the younger Marathis with its ITpush and stop them from heading to Raj Thackeray’sMaharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS).Some of the change is also in how the Sena looks. In the past,the party headquarters, the Shiv Sena Bhavan in Dadar,Mumbai was not a place for those who preferred the gentler option of debate. Now, though, the Sena Bhavan has beenredone. It is nothing like the political party headquarters in NewDelhi with crowds milling in the vast open spaces. The SenaBhavan is abrupt and only those with specific tasks andappointments are allowed entry. Inside, the office is spankingclean. They have a call centre. The women are dressed in auniform of black T-shirts with the bow and arrow, the Shiv Senasymbol, in orange on the top left.THE RECEPTIONIST takes two minutes to take a visitor’s card,enter the details on a database, and send a welcome textmessage in Marathi. The Shiv Sena tune is playing: “ShivSenaaa, Shiv Senaaa, Shiv Senaaaa...” There are flat screentelevision sets on each floor with the cadre allowed to watchwith discretion. Mostly, they say they watch live broadcast of cricket matches. About 30 people are on the fourth floor lobbyon a weekday. Some of them watch the Test match betweenIndia and South Africa. Sachin Tendulkar, who Bal Thackerayderided for his stance that all Indians are welcome in Mumbai,gets out soon. The Shiv Sainiks switch the television off.Miles away, in Jogeshwari, a packed suburb of Mumbai, first-time Sena MLA Ravindra Waikar is at work in the new culture.Jogeshwari is where some huts of Hindu families were setablaze in January 1993, a month after the demolition of theBabri Masjid. Five women and a man died, and the murders setoff an orgy of violence in what was then Bombay. For twoweeks, the Sainiks targeted Muslims across Mumbai in theinfamous Bombay riots. Jogeshwari was a hub of theunemployed and a catchment area for angry Sena cadre. Itused to be a dirty, miserable part of Mumbai.Now, a new Jogeshwari is coming up. Waikar has been a municipal corporator four times and wonthe last election to the Assembly from Jogeshwari East. “Look at this. Can you believe it is the sameJogeshwari,” he says. There are three huge and neatly trimmed parks named after the then Anti-Terrorism Squad chief Hemant Karkare, the then Additional Commissioner of Police Ashok Kamte,and top cop Vijay Salaskar — all of whom were killed in the 26/11 attack on Mumbai.Just at the entrance of Jogeshwari, by road, is a shining Ganpati temple, Waikar’s hub. It is aTuesday night and the place is packed. There are about 500 people for the evening prayers, andastonishingly most of them are girls and boys. “We look for ways to make sense to the younger generation. Things get focussed for us when we are in power because we know we have to deliver on projects. When we are out of power, we don’t know what we will do. This causes restlessnessamong the cadre. We can still raise 10,000 people if we want to, but we are now focusing onimmediate issues that make a difference to people,” he says.Waikar seems to do the Manoos thing smartly. An open air class is being conducted on the terraceof the Ganpati temple. There are about 150 students. A teacher is giving them tips on how to getbetter marks in Marathi during the board exams. The teacher speaks into a handheld microphone. Aspeaker carries his voice to each student. “No one has ever scored 100 per cent marks in Marathi.You must be the first,” the teacher says. There is a bust of Shivaji on one side, a garlanded portraitof Meenatai, Bal Thackeray’s wife who died years ago, and a large poster of Waikar.This is the new Sena. Waikar’s men trawl the chawls of Jogeshwari and have near-perfectknowledge of every human need there. His office knows how many widows live in Jogeshwari, howmany children are orphans, and how many couples have no children. Old women are offered freefood at the temple everyday. Adjacent to the temple is a jogging trail and a small manmade lake.
Bitter parting
A file photo of theSena chief with son Uddhav (left) andnephew Raj
Popular mood
Congress workersrally in support of SRK and RahulGandhi

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