Shiv Sena badnaam hui…

If this had been the Youth Congress or even the Yuva Morcha of the Bharatiya Janata Party, Bal Thackeray would have gone red in the face, spouted some purple prose and cried blue murder.

But since it was grandson Aditya Thackeray, the Shiv Sena patriarch looked on benignly and had only praise for the Yuva Sena leader.

I am sure Aditya is doing well in his enterprise – after all the Sena never had a youth wing before and Thackeray allowed it only after much persuasion by both Aditya and his father, Uddhav.

The organisation completed a year on October 17 and the Yuva Sena marked the event at a grand show with some raunchy numbers like Sheela Ki Jawani, Munni Badnam Hui, Jalebi Bai etc, complete with gyrating dancers in skimpy clothes et al, and some even more saucy Marathi songs.

Now, the Yuva Sena was formed as a challenge to Uddhav’s cousin and Bal Thackeray’s nephew, Raj Thackeray. Ever since Raj broke away from the mother party he seemed to have caught the imagination of quite a lot of youth in Maharashtra with only the old fuddy-duddies left behind with Uddhav.

While these old timers did not quite appreciate a 19-year old Aditya thrust upon them as their `leader’, somehow the youthful tiger cub does not seem to have posed enough of a challenge to his father’s cousin as yet.

People still seem to be comparing Raj with Uddhav and hanging on to the original Shiv Sena only because of their reverence for Bal Thackeray. Under the circumstances, it may be easy to understand why the Sena thought it was out of touch with the mobile-toting, disco-going youth and perhaps felt raunchy numbers and sexy songs were the way to their hearts and minds.

Now, while the Yuva Sena charges critics with attempting to divert attention from their good work by raising a controversy over their dance numbers, clearly many hardcore Shiv Sainiks did not quite agree with the concept. While Uddhav Thackeray arrived at the do much after, there were several senior Sena leaders who woke up from their naps halfway through to stop the dances abruptly, knowing well the opprobrium the programme will attract.

Predictably, rival political parties have been quick to jump down the Shiv Sena’s throat. “Such shameful behaviour from a party which believes in moral policing to save Hindu Sanskriti is condemnable,” said the NCP.

A Sena supporter bemoaned the fact that untrained people like Aditya Thackeray might sound the death knell of the Sena by going contrary to all that the party has held dear for years.

While the Sena has gone to extremes in its attempts at moral policing, perhaps the Sheila and Jalebi numbers by dancers in backless cholis only points to a generational shift in the party. But I believe it would have been wiser to apprentice the young boy with senior leaders in the Sena who are heading various units (like the Kamagar Sena, for example, or even the Vidyarthi Sena), for several months each, rather than hand him a forum of his own to do with as he pleases.

A 20-year-old will know only as much as he does and, perhaps, needs the guidance of wiser heads and the help of older hands before he can begin to pose a challenge to anyone let alone his uncle, who has spent years perfecting the art of political one-upmanship.

I had suggested as much to some Sena leaders who had once asked me about what the media thought about Aditya’s entry into politics — his father should have allowed him to work his way to the top, rather than impose him over others from above. That would not only have ensured that he learnt all the ropes (and tricks) but he would also have got to know the organisation/party from inside out, developed some goodwill of his own as well his own band of loyalists from among all sections and not just some college friends. He could then have brought a young perspective to an ageing party that would have done good for all three generations of leaders in the Shiv sena. Many Sena leaders had agreed with my perspective and, from what they said, I believe they will not lend their wisdom too easily to Aditya. That, in later years, could prove to be a deep flaw within the leadership, for no party can be wholly composed of only either the young or just the old. It ought to be all things to all people, something that the Congress manages to do even today at a time when it is not at its best or strongest.

But the threat posed by Raj Thackeray had been so intense that, I guess, the older Thackerays just lost patience and gave in to whatever (or whoever) they thought would pose a challenge to him. Raj must now be really laughing up his sleeve – he never did do a Sheila number even as his own MNS refrained from coming in the way of Valentine celebrations and at one time also decided to conduct ballroom dancing classes for the young.

But, of course, Sheila and Jalebi Bai were indeed a little extreme and did succeed in pushing any recount of the good work the Yuva Sena might have done in the past year off the media reports the next day. Perhaps Aditya was right that the controversy was a conspiracy against him. Or, perhaps, he was just being what young men his age are all the time: young, naïve, with a zest for life and a taste for the salacious that appeals to people his age and comes from being, well, so really young.

Nonetheless, the generational shift has given the party a bad name. Shiv Sena toh badnaam ho hee gayee!

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