India's Maharashtra state facing political crisis over 'Hindutva' agenda

Nearly 40 legislators have rebelled against the chief minister over compromising on Hindu hegemony agenda

Supporters of Shiv Sena party gather outside Matoshree, the family residence of Uddhav Thackeray, on Wednesday. EPA
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Maharashtra state's ruling alliance is under threat after nearly 40 legislators rebelled against Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray over compromising on Hindutva — the Hindu hegemony agenda.

India's western state is ruled by an alliance called Maha Vikas Aghadi, made up of Mr Thackeray’s Shiv Sena, Congress and the Nationalist Congress Party. Mr Thackeray snapped his party’s ties with Prime Minister Narendra Modi's Bharatiya Janata Party in 2019.

The political crisis in the state, home to India’s financial capital Mumbai, began earlier this week when Eknath Shinde, a one-time Thackeray loyalist, rebelled, claiming that he was moving away from the party's main plank of Hindutva.

Shiv Sena, a right-wing Hindu ultra-nationalist political party, was formed by Uddhav Thackeray’s father, cartoonist and firebrand leader Bal Thackeray in 1966.

The party has often been criticised for its extreme views.

The younger Mr Thackeray joined the secular party alliance in 2019 after BJP demanded that its candidate remain the chief minister following the BJP-Shiv Sena victory in state elections.

The BJP-Shiv Sena coalition has been in power since 1984.

Shiv Sena claims that it remains steadfast on the Hindutva agenda and that the alliance was a “compromise for Maharashtra”, as Mr Thackeray said in the party’s newspaper Saamana in 2019.

However, Mr Shinde has accused the chief minister of moving away from the party's Hindutva ideology of late.

Mr Thackeray recently hit out at Mr Modi’s BJP for damaging India’s image globally after a party spokeswoman made disparaging remarks about the Prophet Mohammed.

Mr Shinde has also been upset about the treatment of senior leaders in the party since Mr Thackeray took the reins of the party after his father’s death in 2012.

With the revolt threatening the stability of his government, Mr Thackeray made an emotional speech during a Facebook address late on Wednesday and offered to quit from the top post.

He later vacated the official residence and moved to his house Matoshree, the heart of the Shiv Sainiks, or party workers.

“If my own people don't want me as chief minister, he should walk up to me and say so … and I'll quit as chief minister. The chief minister's position came to me accidentally — it's not something I yearn for. I am Balasaheb's son, I am not after a post,” Mr Thackeray said.

Alliance partners have suggested that Mr Shinde be named as the chief minister. Mr Shinde is expected to release a list of his supporters on Thursday.

Updated: June 23, 2022, 7:52 AM