At this moment, they are struggling to think anything out of the box to convince the electorate, especially in this Narendra Modi era which has just set in.
Both Thackerays failed to impress politically
Take for example, the Thackeray cousins in Maharashtra. Both the Shiv Sena and the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) have failed to meet their respective challenges in this election.
While the Shiv Sena led by Uddhav Thackeray lost the prestige battle with the BJP despite increasing its tally, the MNS led by the mercurial Raj Thackeray did worse than the Hyderabad-based MIM, which made its debut in Maharashtra this year.
What was Thackerays' problem?
What was the problem with these leaders? Why did they find it a tough test in their own state where they often raise aggressive sub-national sentiments to win popular support?
Both failed to chalk out a clear stand on ‘man of the moment' Narendra Modi
Even they are estranged, the two Thackerays made a common mistake in 2014, a year which can be completely dedicated to Narendra Modi. Both failed to come up with the right strategy vis-à-vis Modi and faced the consequences like the Congress and some other powerful regional parties in North India.
Shiv Sena wanted to reverse the LS poll model but misread Modi's universal appeal
Take the case of Shiv Sena. The party's take on the BJP was: Okay, you ate the cream in the Lok Sabha election but it will be my turn in the assembly poll.
Never mess with anybody when his time is on
Accordingly, the Sena leadership tried to corner the BJP in all possible ways for it was certain that its readymade base in urban Maharashtra would see it having the last laugh and the BJP would be forced to bow before it on October 19 when the results came out. But Uddhav Thackeray perhaps forgot the simple rule of war and that is: Never mess with your enemy when his time is on.
Uddhav Thackeray had no reason to target Modi
Thackeray had no reason to attack Narendra Modi and the BJP when he could have gained a lot by staying in the alliance with the latter.
The common political ideology of the two parties was enough for Uddhav Thackeray to reap the benefits. But he was perhaps influenced by the pre-Lok Sabha poll development when the Shiv Sena undertook a pressure tactic to warn the BJP about fielding its own candidates in Uttar Pradesh if it was thinking of making an agreement with the MNS.
But Uddhav Thackeray didn't take into consideration the fact that Narendra Modi is the tallest leader of Indian politics at the moment and has somehow managed to unite the mood of the nation all across.
Raj Thackeray did too many flip-flops
The other Thackeray too made a similar blunder. He is often heard saying that it was he who had wanted Modi as the PM before anyone. If he is indeed proud about his farsightedness, then why didn't he stick to a stand of backing Modi throughout?
Raj Thackeray did too many flip-flops on Modi in the run-up of the Lok Sabha polls and after, thinking perhaps everything would work in his favour gradually, but ended up losing his credibility in his own state.
Thackerays didn't learn from Rahul Gandhis, Nitish Kumars or Mulayam Singh Yadavs
Both these cousins showed that they are yet to cover a big distance before they understand the situation rightly. Only thinking on lines of self-importance isn't effective in politics always. The same has happened with the Rahul Gandhis, Nitish Kumars and Mulayam Singh Yadavs. Now, the two Thackerays have also joined the list.
Sharad Pawar, on the other hand, just did it right
But take the case of veteran Maharashtrian leader Sharad Pawar. The Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) leader, despite belonging to the opposition alliance, has been seen making pro-Modi overtures time and again. His party has even expressed an willingness to support the BJP to form a stable government in Maharashtra this time after no party managed to win a clear majority. Pawar's opportunism is known to all, but what the ‘morally right' Thackerays can learn from Pawar is the way he safeguards the party's future for the younger lot.
The NCP is in an advantageous position after the Shiv Sena's strategy boomeranged and whether the BJP goes with the NCP or the Sena, Uddhav Thackeray's position will remain weakened. Pawar, on the other hand, has little to lose even if his party dumps the hapless Congress.
Bal Thackeray wouldn't have misread the pitch like his successors
The late Bal Thackeray wouldn't have made such a strategic blunder by targeting Modi before the election for sure. His successors have a lot to learn yet.