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'Uddhav, Raj should unite for the future of Marathis'

Last updated on: November 20, 2012 08:14 IST

'Uddhav, Raj should unite for the future of Marathis'

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Prasanna D Zore in Mumbai

Rediff.com's Prasanna D Zore reports that many want Uddhav and Raj Thackeray to bury the hatchet and form a united front for the betterment of the Marathi manoos

A steady stream of Shiv Sena supporters continued visiting Shivaji Park to pay their obeisance on Monday, a day after Bal Keshav Thackeray's mortal remains were consigned to the element. They want the two estranged cousins -- Uddhav and Raj -- to bury the hatchet and form a united front for the betterment of the Marathi manoos

Even as the winter sun beats down gently, the concrete platform that formed the base for Bal Thackeray's funeral pyre is crowded by five to six people who are collecting his mortal ashes. Three Sena officials, dressed in trademark white safaris, a red tilak (vermilion) and barefooted are overseeing the work seated on chairs. 

A small copper urn, draped in red cloth, and containing Thackeray's ashes adorn the flower bedecked concrete platform. A diva (lamp) ensconced in a glass cover burns without much flickering. A steady stream of visitors enter the final resting place of their supreme leader from a small passage made through the barricade that protected the crowds from spilling into the area on Sunday. Nobody is crying but their faces are morose. 

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Image: Shiv Sena supporters paying their last respects at Shivaji Park a day after Shiv Sena chief Bal Thackeray was cremated on November 19 with state honours
Photographs: Prasanna D Zore/Rediff.com

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'The brothers should at least unite now'

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A mid-sized photograph of the Shiv Sena patriarch, facing north, benignly gazes at those offering flowers and tulsi (sacred basil) leaves next to the urn and the lamp. A small crowd has gathered outside this barricade and animatedly talks about how their lives will never be the same again. This crowd comprises of college-going girls and boys, families with small children in tow, individuals who wanted to avoid the huge swathes of people on Sunday and have worked half-day to come here and pay their last respects. 

Anil Ghodvinde, a Kalyan resident, whose office is located next to Shiv Sena headquarter in Dadar, has come with a small group of eight people at lunch break. How are you feeling after seeing the ashes of Balasaheb? "The brothers should at least unite now," he says trying not to hide his anger and disappointment at the way the state's politics has shaped ever since Raj Thackeray quit Sena in 2006 to form Maharashtra Navnirman Sena. His stress on the words 'at least' clearly shows his frustration at Shiv Sena's dwindling numbers in the electoral arena post MNS's formation.

An exasperated Ghodvinde sadly walks away past Meenatai Thackeray gate located at the east end of Shivaji Park. 

"The inevitable has happened," says Madhav Deshpande, an investment advisor from Nagpur, who was in Mumbai for work when news about Bal Thackeray's death broke on November 17. "Balasaheb is not going to come back," he says, "but it is up to Uddhav and Raj now to fulfill his dreams and visions." 

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Image: Tanaji Renuse (in white shirt), who works for the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation is a Shiv Sainik from Ghatkopar. He was present for the cremation on November 18 but visited Shivaji Park again to express his gratitude to the departed Sena chief
Photographs: Prasanna D Zore/Rediff.com

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'Balasaheb gave identity and voice to us Maharashtrians'

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Ask him if the two brothers will shed their egos for the sake of people like him and he spits back, "Ego is not the only reason. It cannot be. There are other factors at work also," he says. Deshpande surmises these other factors as: power sharing within the organisation if Raj were to stay with the Shiv Sena and the question of who will be the torchbearer of Thackeray's legacy. Nevertheless, he strongly wishes that the two brothers should fight together for the cause of Maharashtrians. 

"It will take quite some time for the people of Maharashtra to figure out what a colossal loss they had suffered in Bal Thackeray's death," he says.

"Balasaheb gave identity and voice to us Maharashtrians," say Pranita and Pragati Thakur from Worli, once considered a Shiv Sena stronghold, but now taken over by Raj's MNS. The twin sisters study photography at J J School of Arts and Commerce at Kirti College and have just completed 20. After knowing their age and hearing them speak about 'Maharashtrian identity' one feels compelled to ask if they feel secure now that their godfather has left for his heavenly abode. 

Do you think after completing your photography course when you will go out for job interviews you will be discriminated against for being Marathis in Mumbai now that the Shiv Sena chief is no more? Do you feel insecure now? 

The two girls confidently laugh it off. "So what if he is not around? His legacy, his influence and his fear in the hearts of those discriminating against Marathis in Maharashtra will remain forever." 

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Image: Pranita (left) and Pragati Thakur from Worli learnt about the Shiv Sena chief from their father, a life long Sena worker, who met Bal Thackeray on a photography assignment at Matoshree
Photographs: Prasanna D Zore/Rediff.com

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'Raj saheb should come back to Shiv Sena'

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Pranita and Pragati are the modern face of Shiv Sena and the identity politics it espoused to win the hearts of Marathi manoos. Unlike Ghodvinde and Deshpande the sisters have a plan to bring Uddhav and Raj together. One gets a brief glimpse into their thinking when they talk of starting a Facebook page to unite the estranged Thackerays. 

"We have already started a discussion within our college group. Soon we will flesh out the details and launch our Facebook page. We must do this for the sake of Maharashtrians," they aver. 

These girls want the two brothers to come together so that young Maharashtrians can dream of a better future. They said they would definitely strike it on their own but a strong showing by a united Uddhav-Raj front will add a huge fillip to their confidence. 

Apart from a feeling of insecurity overwhelming Shiv Sainiks about the political, cultural and economic future of Maharshtrians there is anger too on the streets. Shiv Sainik Tanaji Renuse says every time he hears party defectors express their love and affection for Balasaheb he gets furious. 

"Why are they expressing their love and affection for Saheb now? Why did they do this (defect or quit from the party)? For power (he refers to Raj Thackeray starting MNS)? For ministries (reference to Chhagan Bhujbal who defected from the Sena in 1991 and Narayan Rane who joined Congress in 2005 despite being a Shiv Sena chief minister for two years)?" he asks angrily. 

"Had they not quit Shiv Sena saheb would have lived longer," he asserts. 

Nevertheless Renuse strongly espouses the cause of Uddha-Raj unity.

."Raj saheb should come back to Shiv Sena. He quit on his own accord. Balasaheb did not ask him to leave. And yes, Uddhav Saheb should also let bygones be bygones," he says. 

"If that does not happen in the next few years the future of Marathi manoos will be ruined forever in Maharashtra," he adds.


Image: Uddhav and Raj Thackeray at the funeral ceremony of Shiv Sena chief Bal Thackeray
Photographs: Satish Bodas/Rediff.com

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