Some Shiv Sena veterans say, "The Sena is eroding on its own, we don't have to quit this party. It breaks our heart to see the end, but it is inevitable."
Neeta Kolhatkar on the crisis confronting the Shiv Sena.
The recent weeks have yet again given rise to speculation about Shiv Sena Executive President Uddhav Thackeray's leadership or the lack of it. The recent exodus from the party has shocked many. Many others are waiting to leave. It was expected after Sena founder Bal Thackeray's death.
Shiv Sainiks gave Uddhav time to mourn and recover from his personal loss. However, recent events have left most political observers without a doubt that this heralds the end of the Shiv Sena.
I wouldn't call the Shiv Sena a political party. When the Sena began in 1966, it was an ideological outfit, with the spirit to fight for all Maharashtrians.
In my conversation with founder members, many first generation leaders and corporators, I got the feeling that it was this oneness and spirit that bound them together. Politics and contesting elections was by the way.
With changing times, a lot has changed in the party. The uniqueness of this party was its cadre. That is why shakhas were established, to be with the people of one's area, deal with their problems.
The leader was only one, Sena supremo Bal Thackeray.
Today, those who parade themselves as 'leaders' aren't from the masses, have little connection with the cadre and are considered 'dealers' within political circles. This is the main grouse of the devout Sainiks who are leaving the party.
Many have questioned Uddhav's leadership -- starting with his cousin Raj Thackeray who left the Sena to form the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena. Later, former Maharashtra chief minister Narayan Rane and others quit the Sena. Their grouse was a coterie had grown around Uddhav that blocked the stream of grassroots people from meeting him and allowing the flow of information.
Many old time Shiv Sainiks say Uddhav doesn't seem to realise the disconnect of the party leadership from the pulse of the people.
It has come as no surprise that the Bharatiya Janata Party wanted to do away with the Sena. The BJP realised the utility value of its ally is now very short-lived, or even past the expiry date. They saw potential in the MNS and approached Raj Thackeray.
What ensued was a huge drama more on filmy lines than political. In Marathi there is a saying: Tuza vachun karmena, tuza sanga zamena (One can't do with you, one can't do without you).
A slighted Uddhav gave indicators that he would break off the Sena's alliance with the BJP. Old timers thought this was the decisive moment. Had Bal Thackeray been around they felt he wouldn't have wasted so many hours of indulgence, he would have called the BJP leadership directly and sought a clarification.
Party cadres feel let down that some sort of deal had taken place for the Sena to continue its alliance with the BJP.
Yet again, Uddhav's leadership was questioned.
Several elected representatives have begun to leave the Sena, starting with Anand Paranjpe, MP. People witnessed the pathetic handling of the Manohar Joshi issue by Uddhav Thackeray which led to Joshi being booed in public.
Later, Mohan Rawale, a four time MP, was expelled. In the last month, three sitting Sena MPs from Shirdi, Parbhani and Maval have left the party after pointing fingers at Uddhav.
Most critics believe Uddhav is more manager than leader.
There is talk of his secretary Milind Narvekar taking control. Talk of Uddhav's wife Rashmi's dominance in the party has been doing the rounds for years.
Old timers like a former Union minister feel relieved to be out of Uddhav's orbit. Some veterans say, "The Sena is eroding on its own, we don't have to quit this party. We didn't join for this man, our bond was with Balasaheb. It breaks our heart to see the end, but it is inevitable."
The speculation that this may be the Sena's last Lok Sabha election may not be altogether wrong.
Image: Shiv Sena Execeutive President Uddhav Thackeray.