Political circles are buzzing in speculation from Saturday after Shiv Sena executive president, Uddhav Thackeray came out in support of a Maharashtra Navnirman Sena MLA who was allegedly brutally beaten up by policemen in Aurangabad earlier this week.
Thackeray had lambasted the police for allegedly brutally beating up MNS MLA Harshvardhan Jadhav who tried to breach the barricade put up for chief minister's convoy during his trip to Ellora earlier last week. "Policemen have assaulted Jadhav as if he was a thief and not a MLA. Such policemen should be deployed in Naxal-affected areas," said Uddhav sarcastically.
Why is Uddhav's statement so significant? Well this is the first time that the Shiv Sena has come out openly in support of the MNS. "The Sena did not support the MNS even when five of its MLA's had beaten up Abu Asim Azmi for not speaking in Marathi while taking oath in the state assembly. The party has steadfastly distanced itself from the MNS, so Saturday's statement which was given by Uddhav himself could mean that there could be peace between the two cousins," said a senior Sena leader.
The Sena leader added that Uddhav's statement has to be seen in the backdrop of the developments in the past few weeks. "Ever since Ajit Pawar become the deputy CM, he has gone aggressively against the Shiv Sena in a bid to bolster his party. For instance in a bid to consolidate the Maratha vote bank, they shifted the statue of Dadoji Konddeo from Lal Mahal in Pune. Later when the Sena reacted with a call for bandh he knew that there would be violence which is why he asked the Pune police to tap the phones of Sena leaders Neelam Gorhe and Uddhav's personal assistant, Milind Narvekar," said the leader.
Both Narvekar and Gorhe got in trouble as the tap exposed Narvekar exhorting and instructing Gorhe on how to go about vandalising and attacking public property during the bandh. "Uddhav and the whole Sena leadership got ruffled by the phone taps and the subsequent police cases against Narvekar. The cops have never been so aggressive or proactive and we believe that this was done under the orders of Pawar, who we believe wants to marginalise our party," said the Sena leader.
Pawar, who is well known for his mercurial temper, is now developing the image of a politician who would leave no stone unturned to crush the opposition.
That the Nationalist Congress Party was going all out to cut the Shiv Sena to size could be seen when Ajit Pawar also wooed Sena functionary and trade union leader Kiran Pawaskar at the end of this week. The developments have clearly unnerved Uddhav which is why he came out in support of the MNS MLA in Aurangabad.
The BMC civic elections are to be held next year, and if the Sena is weakened by both the NCP and MNS then the party wont be able to capture power in the cash rich civic body, so extending an olive branch to the MNS was the only option said Sena leaders. Now it remains to be seen whether his cousin Raj would respond to his overtures.