The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) appears to be on a mission to finish Uddhav Thackeray and his faction of the Shiv Sena politically in Maharashtra. The BJP move comes on the heels of the Election Commission’s decision that has separated the Shiv Sena from the Thackeray family.

Worried Sena leaders are of the view that the only way to foil the BJP’s game plan is to take to the street and make contact with the masses. For this, sources said, Aaditya Thackeray should undertake a 'padyatra' from Aurangabad to Mumbai to revive the fighting spirit in the organisation and make it effective.

“This is the only way to expose the BJP and its government in the state and at the Centre. Uddhavji and senior party leaders will be touring across Maharashtra and address meetings. But a padyatra has a larger impact. This has brought Y.S. Jagan Mohan Reddy to power in Andhra Pradesh against all odds,” Sena sources told The Citizen.

Aurangabad is the regional headquarter of Marthawada and remained a stronghold of the Shiv Sena (Uddhav) although it has now suffered a setback in the recent split. Even so Aurangabad, Nashik, Thane, Navi Mumbai, and parts of the Khandesh region, are unlikely to give a free hand to the BJP and the Shinde faction. This is mainly so because the Shiv Sena, the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) and the Congress have a strong support base in these parts of the state.

Maharashtra has been governed by coalition governments since 1995 without a break. And the BJP strategists also know that the party’s Hindutva brand and the ‘Narendra Modi magic’ formula cannot give it a hundred percent results in this state.

Aaditya Thackeray has emerged as a `leader’ following the split in the Shiv Sena. He toured different parts of the state, addressed meetings and took on the defectors, and the BJP openly by daring them to seek a fresh mandate.

“Aaditya is young, energetic, articulate. The next 13-14 months are going to be crucial politically. We will have the BrihanMumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) polls besides other municipal corporations and local body elections. And the general election is due early next year. This is the time people will decide which is the real Shiv Sena”,a party leader said.

According to the Thackeray camp, the BJP's next move could be to target the Thackeray family by using all government agencies against it including actions by ED, Income Tax and CBI. “But this can be punctured if we go to the people, ultimately they are the final court,” said party insiders. They added that people were with them despite the fall of the government, split in the party and the Election Commission's decision to allot the Shiv Sena name and its symbol to the Eknath Shinde faction.

"They (BJP leaders ) are not attacking other parties (Congress, NCP) but are determined to finish the legacy of Thackeray and his Shiv Sena. They are openly saying we have taken revenge, taught a lesson.This can't be the language of a political party but the language of a gang. Maharashtra is watching,” the insiders said .

Sanjay Raut, Sushma Andhare and Aaditya Thackeray are taking on the BJP and Eknath Shinde's Sena on a daily basis, and others may join them soon. They are asking why the elections to the BMC are being delayed, and why the rebels are reluctant to seek a fresh mandate. This is the same strategy that the BJP had used in Madhya Pradesh and Karnataka to topple the Opposition party-led governments.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi, and Home Minister Amit Shah's visits to the state are increasing because they want to retain the numbers of the BJP and the Shiv Sena (Shinde faction) in the Lok Sabha. BJP strategists are aware that the party lacks a pan Maharashtra face, and that Chief Minister Eknath Shinde lacks the charisma.

Though the Thackeray Shiv Sena got cornered in the fight to finish in the state, leaders are confident that the minorities and its own core constituency will back it in the elections. They say that the Maha Vikas Aghadi consisting of the Congress, NCP and the Shiv Sena , would give a decisive fight to the BJP this time.

The Shiv Sena led by the rival Eknath Shinde cannot stake a claim for Marathi daily 'Saamana', Hindi daily 'Dopahar Ka Saamana', and 'Marmik', the Marathi cartoon weekly. This is because they are run by the Prabodhan Prakashan, Mumbai. However, sources said that it is a prestigious party organ and the CM would like to control it.

While the Congress is treading cautiously in this fight,the NCP is backing the Uddhav Thackeray led Shiv Sena. But the Maha Vikas Aghadi is yet to emerge as a comprehensive entity and evolve a common strategy against the BJP.

Raj Thackeray and Prakash Ambedkar are the two leaders who are finding it difficult to get a role in the state. Raj Thackeray’s Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) could be a junior player if it joins the BJP-led front, for the simple reason that the BJP leadership is against reviving Thackerays legacy in the state.

Besides, Raj Thackeray’s strong stand for the ‘Marathi manoos’ or the son of the soil goes against the BJP politically, especially among non Maharashtrians. On the other hand, Prakash Ambedkar’s Vanchit Bahujan Aghadi is keeping its “option open.” . This put the party on a slippery slope.