Thackeray gone, will son rise for Sena?

Smruti Koppikar

Mumbai, Nov. 19 -- Maharashtra politics, without the controversial presence of Shiv Sena patriarch Bal Thackeray, will be marked by turmoil not only in the party but also in the political space occupied by the opposition.

Uddhav Thackeray may graduate from being the party's working president to becoming the one in command, but this may not allow him to occupy the opposition space in state politics that his father had reveled in for close to four decades.

Who emerges as the opposition leader could determine the fate of the 2014 general and state assembly elections, as well as the future course of state politics, say political analysts.

As a natural corollary to his ascension in the Sena, Uddhav should have taken over the mantle. But he could see a number of challenges in being accepted as the state's opposition leader.

"Who comes to occupy the opposition space in Maharashtra politics now will depend, to a great extent, on Uddhav's leadership abilities, organisational skills, capability to keep his flock together and come up with a strategic plan," observed Dr B Venkatesh Kumar, political analyst.

There is likely to be some jostling between the Sena and the BJP, which has played second fiddle for the better part of the alliance.

"Our equations do not have to remain the same as they have been for the last 25 years. They may change," said a BJP leader. Over the last two years, the Sena had to yield the offices of the Leader of Opposition in both the legislative assembly and council to the BJP.

The other challenge comes from Raj Thackeray. Raj strikes an emotional chord with the people and uses identity-based political ideology in the same way as his late uncle. This means that irrespective of the numbers on his side, Raj's claim to the opposition space cannot be ignored.

And then there are problems posed by the ruling Congress-NCP combine, which could use the opportunity to render the space ineffective by weakening its forces in the state.

Published by HT Syndication with permission from Hindustan Times.