Charisma and its Underbelly: Principle and Practice of the Sena's Authoritarian Ideal

Julia M. Eckert

in The Charisma of Direct Action

Published in print March 2003 | ISBN: 9780195660449
Published online October 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780199082001 | DOI:
Charisma and its Underbelly: Principle and Practice of the Sena's Authoritarian Ideal

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This chapter discusses the internal structures of the Shiv Sena, and the diffusion of power under the central command. The author describes the figure of the autocratic yet charismatic Bal Thakeray whose control of the party is its most unique feature. Bal Thackeray has advocated that a ‘benevolent dictatorship’ is the most beneficial form of government for India. The use of the family metaphor—with the leader as the patriarch, and the sainiks his children—is essential to the ideology of the party structure. Thackeray's ‘remote control’ over the party is also described. Dissenting members are ridiculed and expelled, their departure being announced in Samna or Marmik. While Thakeray has to continually be aware of rivalries, individual shakhas exercise a fair amount of autonomy, thus revealing that, despite an autocratic leadership, the Sena operates as a network of multi-layered institutions which are dispersed and autonomous in differing degrees. This makes for a strategic command structure in which the Sena as a whole can dissociate itself from individual acts, should they go wrong. The author concludes by analyzing how the Sena gives its sainiks opportunities to rise in the local power structure as also how the charisma (of the leader and his party) works to organize actions that can generate power.

Keywords: charisma; Bal Thackeray; Shiv Sena; shakha autonomy; Shiv sainiks; benevolent dictatorship; autocratic leadership; Samna; Marmik; dissent; remote control; shakhas

Chapter.  13566 words. 

Subjects: Indian Politics

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