On the Shiv Sena side, the meltdown is even more extensive. Most recently, Raj Thackeray quit the party, and openly questioned his brother Uddhav's leadership. Before that, it was Narayan Rane. What exactly Raj's defection means, and where he will go is still a matter of some speculation (he will probably not go to the Congress). DNA Mumbai speculates as follows:
No more can Narayan Rane be sure of disgruntled Shiv Sena leaders making a beeline for his camp. The Sena corporators, MPs and MLAs, who had been keen on joining Rane, now have an option - a Raj-sponsored Sena.
The possibility of Raj Thackeray floating a separate organisation may put the brakes on the exodus of disgruntled Sainiks looking for an alternative political platform to Rane's Congress.
A senior official in the Congress said, "The vertical split in the Shiv Sena will upset the horizontal growth of Rane." Majority of the leaders, pushed into a corner by Uddhav, had sought refuge with Raj. Rane wanted to tap such elements, which felt slighted or isolated in the Uddhav sena.
Horizontal? Vertical? Kya, kya? I'm not sure what they're talking about. Anyone have a guess?
All the troubles in the BJP and Shiv Sena parties may suggest the end of an era -- both parties are struggling to find new momentum for their respective agendas. Are they finished? Probably not: we said the same thing about the Congress Party in the spring of 2004, when the NDA government looked unbeatable. There was considerable infighting there too, along with many questions about who could really lead the party into the next era (the Sonia-Manmohan solution deftly solved all the political problems presented by Sonia Gandhi's leadership of the party). Whether or not we will see another Babri Masjid type event, it seems hard for me to imagine that the era of Hindutva is really behind us.
Nothing lasts forever, so it's dangerous to gloat in politics (as in everything else in life). As soon as Congress hits a rough patch (or the Communists finally quit in frustration), will the Sangh Parivar be back at the center? Or are we headed towards a future of even more localized politics, held together by some vaguely centrist, currently nonexistent party?