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As Uddhav Heads to Ayodhya, Can He One-Up BJP on Hindutva as His Father Bal Thackeray Did?

Despite never having visited Ayodhya, Bal Thackeray virtually upstaged the BJP when it came to championing an aggressive brand of ‘Hindutva'.

Pranshu Mishra | CNN-News18

Updated:November 24, 2018, 7:12 AM IST

Lucknow: As the date for the 2019 Lok Sabha polls draws near, the strain between the Shiv Sena and the BJP — the two most natural advocates of Hindutva — is clearly visible. The focus has now shifted to Shiv Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray’s two-day visit to Ayodhya starting Saturday.

The question being asked is can Uddhav do what his father Bal Thackeray did to the BJP in crucial days following the demolition of Babri Masjid on December 6, 1992.

From the Shiv Sena's perspective, Uddhav's visit to Ayodhya is a historic one as he will be the first party president to visit the disputed site.

To many, it might be a surprise that Bala Saheb, Uddhav’s father, though being one of the shrillest, most aggressive voices for Ram Mandir and Hindutva, had never visited Ayodhya. Even when BJP stalwarts like Atal Bihari Vajpayee and LK Advani found time to visit Ayodhya.

Despite not having visited Ayodhya, Bal Thackeray virtually upstaged the BJP when it came to championing an aggressive brand of ‘Hindutva'.

Bala Saheb was the first leader to openly accept the role of Shiv Sainiks in bringing down the Babri Masjid. In the highly charged and eventful days following the Babri demolition, the response from BJP leaders, including the then chief minister of UP Kalyan Singh, was of denial about the role of BJP members.

“The first Kar Sewaks to scale the walls and minarets of the Babri Mosque were Shiv Sainiks,” Bala Saheb had said at the time, a statement that pleased those championing the brand of aggressive Hindutva in those days.

With a single statement, Bal Thackeray emerged as a champion to the cause of Hindutva and in the process probably got an edge over the BJP.

It was only much later that Kalyan Singh and the likes of Uma Bharti and other BJP leaders accepted the involvement of party workers in the demolition.

Bal Thackeray paid the price for his statement by being made an accused in the Babri demolition case. It was during the hearing of the case that he had once come to Lucknow court, but he did not go to Ayodhya even then.

“There is established personality difference between the father and the son. So while what Bal Thackeray could have achieved just with his words and writings, the son needs to take the charge right from the ground zero,” says Virendra Yadav, a renowned critic of politics in Hindi heartland.

“There had been a constant rivalry between the BJP and the Shiv Sena over their positioning within the larger discourse of Hindutva — Ram Temple being one of its expression. The Shiv Sena's new-found aggression may not be that big a threat to the BJP outside Maharashtra, but it can clearly embarrass the BJP as far as its commitment to cause of Hindutva is concerned,” Yadav adds.

It is this 'struggle for positioning' that has seen the BJP and the Shiv Sena relations souring. The Shiv Sena has accused the Yogi Adityanath government of creating roadblocks to prevent Uddhav's visit.

“We have not been given permission to hold a rally in Ayodhya city. On the other hand, the BJP supported VHP/RSS Dharm Sabha on November 25 is facing no such issues,” said Shiv Sena's UP president Anil Singh.

Sources also told News18 that the BJP has given clear instruction to its MPs, MLAs and organisational leaders in concerned districts to ensure mobilisation for the VHP's event. Not just in terms of numbers, but in the battle of perception, too, the BJP wants to ensure an edge for it. It doesn't want to repeat the mistakes.

| Edited by: Nitya Thirumalai
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