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Exclusive Interview: Manohar Joshi

Last updated on: October 15, 2013 14:05 IST

'Uddhav becomes aggressive when it is required'

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Earlier this year, Rediff.com's Savera R Someshwar met Shiv Sena leader Manohar Joshi to discuss the Sena's future after Balasaheb Thackeray's death last November.

As Mr Joshi finds himself increasingly at odds with Shiv Sena leader Uddhav Thackeray and the party cadre -- he was forced to leave the Sena's Dussera rally on Sunday -- we publish the first part of an exclusive three-part interview with the former Lok Sabha Speaker

In a no-holds-barred conversation to Rediff.com earlier his year, Shiv Sena leader Manohar Joshi spoke about life after Bal Thackeray, his equation with Uddhav and Raj Thackeray and of his critics in the Sena.

The man who famously called Bal Thackeray a benevolent dictator tells Savera R Someshwar why he will always be grateful to the 'Tiger' of Maharashtra.

An exclusive three-part interview, published for the first time:

Do you think Uddhav Thackeray will need to become more like his father for the Shiv Sena to stay relevant, particularly considering the competition from Raj Thackeray's Maharashtra Navnirman Sena?

Do the Shiv Sainiks want to see the image of his father in Uddhav Thackeray?

People say Uddhav Thackeray is not aggressive, which is not true. He also becomes aggressive when it is required.

Raj Thackeray is more careful about his personal image and he behaves like that all the time. Uddhav does not.

Will that be harmful to the Sena?

Not necessary. There are people who want peace. They don't like aggressive leaders. And there are people who want their leaders to always be aggressive.

But we are established for a long time and Mr Balasaheb Thackeray is respected all throughout.

What matters is the number of votes you get. For the last two three elections, the circumstances were the same, but the Shiv Sena won much more seats than the MNS.

Many young Maharashtrians seem to prefer the MNS to the Sena.

Not all young people are going to them. Nobody has really counted it so far. It is the media who decides who has gone ahead and who has not.

Do you have a strategy to convince younger Maharashtrians that the Shiv Sena is the right party for them?

Yes. We have the Yuva Sena, which is looked after by Uddhav's son.

The first generation was Prabhodhankar Thackeray, Balasaheb's father; I have seen that also. Then Balasaheb all throughout. Then Uddhav Thackeray also, right from the beginning of his career. And now, the fourth young generation has come. And it is also growing very fast.

So there is nothing to worry.

The young people are led by Aditya Thackeray, the fourth leader of the Thackeray family.

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Image: Uddhav with his late father, Balasaheb Thackeray.
Photographs: Sherwin Crasto/Reuters

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'There is no possibility at all of the Sena and MNS coming together'

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Do you see the Shiv Sena and Raj Thackeray's Maharashtra Navnirman Sena coming together?

I would not like to comment on this.

But as someone who has watched the cousins for a long time, do you see the Shiv Sena and the MNS uniting at some point?

If you ask me seriously, there is no possibility at all.

At the same time, I have met such people who are strongly desirous of bringing both the parties, both the brothers, together.

I'll be most happy if I could do it. But at the same time, I know it is not possible.

Why do you say that? Is it because their personalities are so different?

No, I know why they have parted with each other, how the whole thing took place.

But, as you know, in politics, anything happens.

I have seen central government politics, Maharashtra government politics, even municipal corporation politics. Nobody can assess and say with certainty about such things. Anything can happen any time.

But, still, I think finally it is not possible that both the brothers will come together.

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Image: MNS leader Raj Thackeray with his uncle in happier times.
Photographs: Sahil Salvi

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'Whatever he does, it sometimes seems like a copy of Mr Balasaheb Thackeray'

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Why, then, do you think the MNS has made such inroads among young Maharashtrians?

Some people may have thought Raj is moving ahead and they will follow Raj.

But there are a larger number of those who decided to follow Mr Uddhav Thackeray because that was the desire of Mr Balasaheb Thackeray.

Do you think the Shiv Sena will have a new profile under Uddhav Thackeray?

I don't think so...

Balasaheb's method, his way of life, everything was different. I am sure Uddhav will follow the same path.

How would you assess Uddhav Thackeray's leadership in the absence of his father?

He is doing very well. He has the advantage of having worked with Mr Balasaheb Thackeray for a long time.

Therefore, whatever he does, it sometimes seems like a copy of Mr Balasaheb Thackeray (smiles).

I have known Balasaheb closely for many years therefore I can read between the lines. This question -- what is the difference between them? -- is bound to come.

I would say one man cannot be exactly similar to another. But their philosophies can be the same. This is the case with Mr Uddhav Thackeray.

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Image: Uddhav Thackeray at the Shiv Sena's first Dussera rally after Balasaheb Thackeray's death last November.
Photographs: Sahil Salvi

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'Balasaheb told Raj not to divide the Marathi people'

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Did Mr Bal Thackeray want the two brothers to come together?

Yes. Yes.

Did he tell Raj Thackeray that?

Once he did tell him, don't do this. It's not good to divide the Marathi people amongst themselves.

That's the bad thing. In the Marathi community also, there are a number of small parts; those parts don't come together and therefore we are put to a loss.

He told him (Raj Thackeray) not to go away from the Shiv Sena.

The last meeting between Balasaheb and Raj Thackeray was organised by me. I also attended that meeting at Matoshree (Mr Bal Thackeray's home in suburban Bandra).

When was this?

The day on which Raj left, one day earlier.

But Raj had already declared (his intent) and therefore he could not do it.

After the MNS had formed, did Mr Bal Thackeray try to convince Raj Thackeray to return to the Sena?

Not in my presence. Because then, slowly, he went a little away from Mr Raj Thackeray.

Raj Thackeray is incorporating symbols associated with his uncle.

In a democracy, everyone can do what he thinks is proper.

Do you think he is trying to show the similarities between himself and his uncle?

He might, and nothing stops him from doing this. Whether it is done intentionally or unintentionally, it is not known.

If the MNS and Shiv Sena don't come together, how will that affect the Sena in the next election?

We will work hard and bring the Shiv Sena up.

Balasaheb wanted power for the Shiv Sena and the BJP (Bharatiya Janata Party) together; we will win it again.

Part II: 'You can't take criticism to heart every time'


Image: Uddhav, Raj, Jaidev and Aditya Thackeray at Balasaheb Thackeray's funeral last November.
Photographs: Satish Bodas/Rediff.com

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