Mumbai: The Uddhav Thackeray-led faction of the Shiv Sena Friday announced a tie-up with the Maratha outfit Sambhaji Brigade for all upcoming elections, in what seemed to be an attempt at consolidating the support of the Maratha community.
The tie-up is significant also because Maharashtra Chief Minister and leader of the break-away Sena group, Eknath Shinde, is a member of the Maratha community.
The Maratha community comprises a group of castes and sub-castes such as Kshatriyas and Kunbi, most of whom are now involved in agricultural work. The community, which accounts for 32 per cent of Maharashtra’s population, considers Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj as their icon.
On Friday, both Uddhav Thackeray and Sambhaji Brigade functionaries, including president Manoj Akhare and main spokesperson Gangadhar Banbare, jointly addressed the media, where they claimed that the two parties decided to come together to save regional parties and their identities.
“In the past one or two months, those who are aligned to a similar thought have come up to me and said that we need to save our Constitution,” said Thackeray. “To save the Constitution, regional identity and parties from getting destroyed, we have decided to come together. I welcome those who follow the idea of Shivaji Maharaj.”
Thackeray’s words were echoed by Akhare. “The Constitution and the democracy are in danger today. We have been in the field since the past 30 years and, in 2016, we formed a political outfit. We will fight all upcoming elections together with the Shiv Sena. The country is polarised today and hence there is a need for revolution,” Akhare said.
The Sambhaji Bridge was among the Maratha outfits which were at the forefront of an agitation during the erstwhile BJP-Shiv Sena government rule in 2016, to seek Maratha quota in government education and jobs.
The Bombay High Court had upheld reservation for the Marathas in 2019, but reduced the 16 per cent quota granted by the Maharashtra government to 12 per cent in education and 13 per cent in government jobs. Two years on, the Supreme Court scrapped the state law allowing the quota. Uddhav Thackeray was the chief minister then.
While the Thackeray-led Shiv Sena will hope that the Sambhaji Bridade will be good optics for the party, which has been under attack over the issue of the Maratha quota, Balasaheb Sarate, an expert on Maratha politics, expressed doubts about how far the tie-up will benefit the former chief minister.
“From what I understand, the collaboration with Sambhaji Brigade will be harmful to the Shiv Sena (the Uddhav Thackeray faction). It will give a tool to the BJP to propagate against Shiv Sena. But, on the contrary, Sambhaji Brigade can get a good representation of the number of seats in elections and they can even win,” said Sarate.
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History of Sambhaji Brigade
Sambhaji Brigade is the branch of the Maratha Seva Sangh, which enjoys considerable backing of the Maratha youth in Maharashtra. In 2021, the outfit was reportedly considering a tie-up with the BJP.
The Maratha outfit is, however, reportedly against the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) — the ideological fountainhead of the BJP — and has been vocal against “Brahminical dominance”.
In 2018, its members had clashed with those of the Akhil Bharatiya Brahman Mahasangh in Pune over a tribute to Dadoji Konddev, a tutor of Shivaji Maharaj.
It has also had a troubled past with the Shiv Sena. At the peak of the Maratha quota agitation in 2016, Shiv Sena mouthpiece Saamna had printed a controversial cartoon, mocking the agitation that had left the party red-faced. Not only did the Shiv Sena have to apologise for the cartoon, but party leaders including Aaditya Thackeray had to issue statements in support of the community.
At that time, Eknath Shinde had been at the forefront of attempts to pacify the agitators and assured them that the Sena stands with Marathas, since it has many Maratha leaders, including him. Since becoming the chief minister, Shinde has received the support of the Maratha Kranti Morcha, another outfit leading the agitation for Maratha quota.
(Edited by Poulomi Banerjee)
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