Mumbai: With the Election Commission (EC) recognising Maharashtra Chief Minister Eknath Shinde's faction as the real Shiv Sena, it remains to be seen whether his group also stakes claim to the party headquarters 'Shiv Sena Bhavan' and party mouthpiece 'Saamana', both currently controlled by the Uddhav Thackeray camp.
While the Shiv Sena Bhavan is located at Dadar in central Mumbai, the 'Saamana' head office is situated in the nearby Prabhadevi area. Both these establishments are currently run by different trusts.
CM Shinde has maintained that he would not stake claim to the Shiv Sena Bhavan even though he has got the party name and symbol. However, the rival camp is wary and on guard. Recently, Shiv Sena (Uddhav Balasaheb Thackeray) leader and Thane MP Rajan Vichare submitted a letter to Thane Police Commissioner Jai Jeet Singh, urging him to thwart any attempts by the Shinde group to usurp the Shiv Sena 'shakhas' (local party offices) in the city.
The EC last week recognised the Shinde faction as the real Shiv Sena and allotted it the party's 'bow and arrow' symbol, giving a jolt to the Thackeray camp. Earlier, the Shinde group was officially referred to as 'Balasahebanchi Shiv Sena' and the Thackeray group as Shiv Sena (Uddhav Balasaheb Thackeray). The Supreme Court is hearing various petitions related to the tussle between the Shinde and Thackeray factions.
Due to the EC verdict, the Thackeray family lost control of the party that was founded in 1966 by Bal Thackeray. The party, founded on the principles of justice for the sons of the soil, had adopted Hindutva as its key ideology and partnered with the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in 1984, an alliance that continued till 2019 when Uddhav Thackeray joined hands with arch-rivals Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) and Congress to become the chief minister.
The Shiv Sena Bhavan is controlled by 'Shivai Seva Trust'. Its founding trustees include late Bal Thackeray and his wife late Meena Thackeray. Many of the founding trustees are not alive now.
Its present trustees include senior leaders Subhash Desai, Diwakar Raote, Leeladhar Dake, former Mumbai mayor Vishaka Raut and Uddhav Thackeray himself.
While 'Saamana', the Shiv Sena mouthpiece founded by late Bal Thackeray, is managed by Prabhodhan Prakashan, whose printer-publisher is Thackeray loyalist Subhash Desai.
Uddhav Thackeray had resigned as the editor of 'Saamana' after assuming the chief minister’s charge in November 2019. He had handed over the editor’s post to his wife Rashmi Thackeray in March 2020. However, after the Shiv Sena split, Uddhav again took over as the editor in August 2022. Sanjay Raut is the executive editor of the party mouthpiece.
Senior journalist Prakash Akolkar, who has written 'Jai Maharashtra' - a book on Shiv Sena's history, said, "CM Shinde has taken a mature decision of not staking claim to the Shiv Sena Bhavan and Saamana as both these institutions are operated by private trusts. Staking claim to these establishments would lead to further legal complications. It is also his indirect message to supporters to exercise restraint." Harshal Pradhan, a close aide of Uddhav Thackeray, said there are 350 Shiv Sena 'shakhas' in Mumbai, while outside Mumbai there is one such unit in each municipal ward.
Shakhas are the premises where the Shiv Sainiks (party workers) gather for political meetings, resolving local issues of citizens.
Vaibhav Purandare, the author of 'Bal Thackeray and the Rise of the Shiv Sena' said, "As a political party, the Shiv Sena directly owns very few properties. Shiv Sena Bhavan and Saamana are owned by trusts. While most of the Shiv Sena shakhas are either owned by the 'shakha pramukhs' or by private individuals who have given their property to set up these offices. It is up to these individuals to decide which way to go."