15 February 2010

Article: The Charisma of Autocracy: Bal Thackeray's Dictatorship in Shiv Sena

In 2002, the Indian journal "Manushi: A Journal about Women and Society" published an article by Julia Eckert titled "The Charisma of Autocracy: Bal Thackeray's Dictatorship in Shiv Sena" (130: pp. 13-9). Shiv Sena is a regional far-right/Hindu nationalist political party in the Indian state of Maharashtra (of which Mumbai is the capital), that more recently has been seeking to go national. It was part of the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance coalition government that ruled India between 1998 and 2004.

The article can be read free of charge here:


Excerpts: "The autocratic control of Bal Thackeray over the Shiv Sena is probably the party's most notorious feature. [...] [T]he movement's founder [...] is said to rule the organisation with dictatorial powers. It is his charismatic appeal that is assumed to inspire his followers, and it is his 'remote control' which is said to govern Mumbai. [...] Bal Thackeray has time and again advocated a 'benevolent dictatorship' as the most beneficial form of government for India. [...]

"Accordingly, dictatorial rule and anti-democratic structures within the Shiv Sena are [...] part of the projected counter-politics of 'getting things done' and justified by the failure of other forms of decision making, namely the parliamentary one. [...] Corruption is in this construction intrinsically linked to democratic procedure, and democratically legitimised power. [...] The theme of 'betrayal by democracy' as well as that of the dangers of party rivalry holds sway far beyond the Sena's constituency."

In 2003, Oxford University Press published Eckert's monograph "The Charisma of Direct Action: Power, Politics and the Shiv Sena":


Publisher's description: "This book is a study of the Shiv Sena, a minor but most influential affiliate of the Hindu nationalist movement. It discusses the politics and appeal of the party which has been governing Mumbai and has achieved electoral success in a democracy that it often dispises [sic]. Through an analysis of the Shiv Sena, the book attempts to understand anti-pluralist movements of voilent [sic] direct action in particular."

Julia M. Eckert is now a Professor in the Institute of Social Anthropology at the University of Berne, Switzerland.

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