Shiv Sena mouthpiece Saamana has recently published an article in which it compared the presumptive President-Elect Joe Biden with RJD leader from Bihar Tejashwi Yadav. The editorial went overboard in praising the Mahagathbandhan leader Tejashwi Yadav while criticising NDA leaders Nitish Kumar and PM Modi.
In its article, the Shiv Sena mouthpiece claimed that Tejashwi Yadav will defeat the NDA alliance in the recently concluded Bihar Assembly elections just like Joe Biden’s “landslide victory” against Republican candidate and serving President Donald Trump. Except, Biden’s victory against Donald Trump is far from being casted as “landslide victory”.
Nevertheless, the Saamana editorial continued lavishing praises on the Bihari leader, claiming that Tejashwi Yadav had been successful in capturing the imagination of the Bihari residents, something with PM Modi and Nitish Kumar could not emulate. Saamana’s assertions rode on several exit polls which suggested that the Lalu Prasad Yadav’s son has punched above his weight in the Bihar Assembly polls.
The exit polls indicate that the fight for forming the government in the state would be a fiercely close contest, with either of the two alliances—NDA and the Mahagathbandhan—racking up an almost identical number of seats in the Vidhan Sabha elections. Though the exit polls suggested a hung Bihar Assembly, Shiv Sena mouthpiece was too enthusiastic with the likelihood of Mahagathbandhan giving a tough fight to the NDA alliance.
While Saamana seemed bouncing off the walls at the prospect of Mahagathbandhan alliance between Congress, RJD and other affiliate parties forming government in Bihar, it is important to revisit the time when the same Shiv Sena mouthpiece had spewed vitriol against the North Indians, most notably against the migrant population from Uttar Pradesh and Bihar in Mumbai, to further its regional politics.
Though Shiv Sena has radically upended its narrative after forming an alliance with ideological rivals–Congress and NCP, one does not have to go too far in the past to determine the latent beliefs held by the Uddhav Thackeray-led party.
Saamana slams migrant workers from UP and Bihar after they return to work following the removal of lockdown
Most recently, Shiv Sena’s Saamana went all guns blazing against the migrant population in Mumbai after Union Minister Nitin Gadkari rightfully raised the concern of the growing population in the city of Mumbai and Pune. In its editorial, Saamana slammed the UP and Bihar government for the “re-migration” of workers from the respective states.
It even endorsed the suggestion made by Shiv Sena founder Balasaheb Thackeray, who had put forth a ‘permit’ rule for outsiders entering the state during the Vajpayee regime in the early 2000s. Later in 2012, current Maharashtra chief minister Uddhav Thackeray, too, had raked up the demand of having a ‘permit’ to check the influx of Bihari migrants in Mumbai.
Marathi people are first among equals in Mumbai: Saamana on Devendra Fadnavis lauding north Indian contribution to Mumbai
Shiv Sena, known for its strident ‘son-of-the-soil rhetoric’, had lambasted the then chief minister of Maharashtra, Devendra Fadnavis, for lauding the contribution of North Indians to Mumbai. Claiming that Marathi people are first among equals, an article published in Saamana said, “Marathi people have the first right and claim over Mumbai. The statement by Fadnavis is an insult to Maharashtra.”
MNS wreaked violence on UP and Bihari migrants while Shiv Sena blithely watched over the carnage
Horrifying attacks were unleashed on migrants from Uttar Pradesh and Bihar in February 2008 after clashes broke out between Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) and Samajwadi Party (SP). MNS, led by Raj Thackeray, cousin of Uddhav Thackeray and nephew of Balasaheb Thackeray, made critical remarks centred around language and regionalism, that acted as a dog whistle for the MNS workers, sparking violence against migrant population from Bihar and Uttar Pradesh.
Across the state, MNS workers wreaked havoc against the migrant population from Uttar Pradesh and Bihar. From Mumbai to Nagpur, Pune to Aurangabad, MNS workers ran amok, attacking people whom they perceived to belong to Uttar Pradesh and Bihar. As many as 25,000 migrants fled Pune, and another 15,000 fled Nashik in the wake of the attacks.
Reluctantly, the state government ordered the arrest of Raj Thackeray and Abu Azmi on charges of instigation of violence and causing communal disturbance. However, Thackeray’s arrest added fuel to the fire, with MNS workers going on a rampage with a greater intensity against the outsiders. They chopped off both hands of a Bihari hawker sleeping on the streets. He was severely beaten until he fell unconscious. When he gained consciousness, he found himself in a hospital with both his hands amputated.
Several such horrifying accounts have been reported from the time when MNS specifically targeted the people from Uttar Pradesh and Bihar. Through all the ruckus, Shiv Sena remained uncharacteristically neutral, conscious that condemnation of MNS might undermine their “Marathi Manoos” rhetoric.
“Biharis are an unwanted lot in all parts of the country”: Saamana editorial in March 2008
It is also important to note that Shiv Sena mouthpiece Saamana published an article titled “Ek Bihar Sau Bimar” on the attacks against North Indians a month later in March 2008. In the article, the editorial appeared to defend the abominable persecution of UP and Bihari migrants by the MNS workers, instead of condemning the violence.
The article said Biharis antagonised local populations wherever they went and were an “unwelcome lot” throughout the country. The parliamentarians from Bihar and UP had raised the issue of violence meted out on the UP and Bihari migrants in Maharashtra in the parliament. In response to this, the Saamana editorial had issued a stern warning, claiming that North Indians in the city would again be at the receiving end if they persisted with such talk.
Bihar politicians should rein in themselves or risk facing the same attacks again: Saamana
The editorial said that the North Indian politicians who should be taught a lesson. Not only did Saamana rationalise the attacks carried out on the North Indian migrants in Mumbai and other parts of the state, it even issued a clarion call to the North Indian parliamentarians to rein in their criticism or risk facing the same kind of attacks again.
Incidentally, the editorial published by Bal Thackeray dissing North Indians was highly critical of Lalu Prasad and senior JD-U leader Prabhunath Singh. Now, since its political affiliations have changed, the Shiv Sena mouthpiece Saamana is bright-eyed and bushy-tailed at the possibility of Lalu Prasad Yadav’s son Tejashwi Yadav becoming the chief minister of Bihar.
Shiv Sena, a perpetually opportunistic political party?
In the current context, Shiv Sena, which has been pretty much unapologetic in its criticism of UP and Bihari population in Maharashtra, has been enthusiastically celebrating the possible coronation of Tejashwi Yadav as Bihar’s new chief minister. It is doing so because it has currently aligned with a political party which is an alliance partner with Tejashwi Yadav’s RJD in Bihar elections.
Sena, perhaps, reckons that a victory in Bihar can add further ballast to the Maha Vikas Aghadi alliance in Maharashtra and reinvigorate the opposition against the Modi government. It had fanned the anti-Bihari sentiments when it saw political mileage in doing so. When it saw shunning Hindutva could get it the much-coveted chief ministerial position of Maharashtra, it fell over itself in breaking its long-term alliance with the BJP and joining hands with the Congress and the NCP. Now that it is in the alliance with the Congress party, it considers the election victory of Mahagathbandhan in Bihar pivotal to its political future.
Shiv Sena, which was once a fervid proponent of Hindutva and was deeply embedded in the NDA alliance, can be termed as an opportunist turncoat at best, relinquishing its support at a drop of a hat when it saw its political greed could be satisfied by switching over. However, on the flip side, it could also be described as a party with no firm political leanings, bartering its ideology for the sake of making short-term political gains.