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Why the Shiv Sena is in turmoil

Last updated on: December 03, 2013 10:40 IST

At a time when elections, both Parliament and assembly are round the corner, die-hard Shiv Sainiks believe Sena supremo Uddhav Thackeray needs to reconcile with some important leaders, says Neeta Kolhatkar on the day that the party sacked five-time MP Mohan Rawale.

The recent public snub given to two veteran Shiv Sena leaders, by the party's working president, Uddhav Thackeray, came as a huge surprise to many who have been familiar with Mahrashtra politics.

For one, Uddhav has been known to be the sober, docile one. Someone whom I have seen dealing with elderly Sena members with respect and dignity. The younger cousin, Raj Thackeray, president of the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena, was the more brash one, with a don't-give-a-damn attitude, where these senior Sainiks were concerned.

Everybody knows the seniors ensured Raj was kept away from the party's core planning, which led to his eventual exit. Uddhav then was an absolute novice and reluctant to join politics. The shock is because whatever said and done, Manohar Joshi, the former Maharashtra chief minister who went on to become Speaker of the Lok Sabha between 2002 and 2004, was a senior and loyal leader.

Things collapsed between Joshi and Uddhav when Joshi rightly said the Democratic Front government opposed a memorial for Shiv Sena founder Bal Thackeray and the Sena leadership was weak not to have stood up against the government's tactics.

Those who know both Uddhav and Joshi feel Joshi had failed to see the changed Uddhav. Many attribute his new found arrogance and not-to-mince-words style to his quiet wife Rashmi who wants the world to take Uddhav seriously.

Joshi underestimated Uddhav Thackeray's power.

The fact is Uddhav hasn't come out strongly against the Maharashtra government on any issue, not got his legislators to battle the government on corruption issues and the people have been wise to note it.

Many Sainiks say with Joshi, 'What goes round, comes around.' For having tried to maintain good equations between the warring cousins, Uddhav and Raj.

The other leader in question, Mohan Rawale, has been a five-time Member of Parliament from the South-Central Mumbai Lok Sabha seat.

A die-hard loyalist of Bal Thackeray, Rawale has felt sidelined. During Bal Thackeray's final days, Rawale would roam alone the lanes near Matoshree, the Thackeray home, because he was not being allowed anywhere near the Sena chief.

Absolutely disgruntled, Rawale began throwing hints of breaking away from the party. The next thing one hears on Friday, at a Sena function in Nashik, Uddhav publicly insulted this five-time MP, saying, 'Those who are feeling disgruntled should get lost, leave the party and are welcome to join any other party.' He went on to say he preferred those who were loyal and would not challenge Uddhav's leadership.

Uddhav has a thick coterie of advisors, mainly Subhash Desai, Milind Narvekar, his political secretary, and wife Rashmi who is the final authority in deciding matters for the Sena. Many old time Sena stalwarts feel miffed at being made to sit with the public in the waiting hall at Matoshree.

Some old-time corporators had refused to acknowledge both Uddhav and Raj when they were being groomed. They believed it was 'emotions, passion' that drew them to the late Thackeray and they were proud to take and give life for the man.

The so-called ideology of the Shiv Sena resonated with many of the Marathi manoos, who believe the next generation of the Thackerays exudes a new-found arrogance which is not justified.

At a time when elections, both Parliament and assembly, are round the corner, die-hard Shiv Sainiks believe that Uddhav needs to reconcile with some important leaders, because they can make or break the party's performance. It is no secret that many a deal and negotiations struck before and during the elections can impact the eventual result.

Neeta Kolhatkar