With a cub in fray, is the Tiger changing its stripes?

Mumbai: With the entry of Aaditya Thackeray into active politics, it seems the Shiv Sena is reinventing itself. Now the question doing the rounds is whether the Tiger is changing its stripes.

The party, which has always projected itself as pro-Hindutva and anti-Muslim, is now trying to project itself as a Muslim-friendly party.

The rise of the Shiv Sena has mainly been attributed to its anti-Muslim stance. In the 1992-93 riots, the Sena projected itself as a protector of Hindus.

It has repeatedly questioned Muslims’ love for the country and portrayed them as anti-national. Although a Muslim and Shiv Sena leader, Sabir Shaikh, was the labour minister in the Sena-BJP government during 1995-99, the party’s unique selling point had always been its anti- Muslim stand.

After the emergence of Aaditya Thackeray, the Sena has been trying to change its stand on various issues, keeping in mind the current situation. Uddhav’s softening of his stand against Muslims is one such change. He has extended a hand of friendship to the Muslim community.

“The Shiv Sena is always with those Muslims who love our country and we will try to solve their problems,” he announced at the party’s celebrated Dussehra rally on Tuesday.

This might be to dent the Muslim vote base of the Congres-NCP. The reason for this sudden outreach may be rooted in reasons closer home. In Bandra East, where the Thackerays reside, Muslims are from the Behrampada slums are the deciding factor.

They have supported Prakash Sawant of the Shiv Sena for the upcoming assembly election. This is also the community which had voted in favour of Sawant’swife Trupti, thereby ensuring the defeat of Congress leader Narayan Rane in the byelection.

But this time, Trupti Sawant is contesting as an Independent against the Shiv Sena candidate Vishwanath Mahadeshwar. If Muslim voters favour the Congress, the Sena candidate may be defeated.

Act on Ram Mandir’

Disregarding the taunt by Prime Minister Narendra Modi for speaking on the Ram Mandir, Uddhav demanded the enactment of a special legislation for the purpose. “Why should we not speak on the Ram Mandir issue? The case has been in court for 30 years,” he said.

Defends ties with BJP

Admitting that the alliance with BJP was a compromise, he said the Sena had tied up with BJP on the basis of Hindutva. “We did not surrender or bend. Should we ally with Congress, which opposed the abrogation of Article 370,” he asked. He also announced political sops for various communities.

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