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Are Uddhav-Raj Planning To Reunite?

Last updated on: July 07, 2023 13:19 IST
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According to insiders, "talks are on" between the Shiv Sena-Uddhav Balasaheb Thackeray and the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena at "an exploratory level".

IMAGE: Uddhav Thackeray, left, with cousin Raj Thackeray, estranged elder brother Jaidev and elder son Aditya at Balasaheb Thackeray's funeral at Mumbai's Shivaji Park, November 19, 2012. Photograph: Satish Bodas/

Just four days after the Pawar versus Pawar, chacha-bhatija, battle for political supremacy between Sharad Pawar and his now-estranged nephew Ajit Pawar exploded under full public glare leading to an impending vertical split in the Sharad Pawar-founded Nationalist Congress Party, political developments that unfolded since the morning of July 6 indicate the punar-milan (reunion) of the estranged Thackeray cousins, Uddhav and Raj.

According to insiders, "talks are on" between the two political parties at "an exploratory level" to fathom the chances of a reunion between the Shiv Sena-Uddhav Balasaheb Thackeray and the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena, which Raj Thackeray founded in 2006, because then Shiv Sena supremo Bal Thackeray made it clear that his son Uddhav would lead the party he founded.

While the Thackeray versus Thackeray political split was not as acrimonious as the Pawar versus Pawar duel being played out presently, Raj Thackeray did go on to politically undermine the Shiv Sena's electoral prospects in urban Maharashtra in the 2009 Lok Sabha and Vidhan Sabha elections.

Interestingly, even though both the SS-UBT and MNS leaders officially deny the possibility of the cousins coming together, sources insist that Raj and Uddhav are in the know of proceedings and have given their blessings for the reunion considering the formidable force this would create in the context of the BrihanMumbai Municipal Corporation elections, whenever they are scheduled.

The united Shiv Sena has been ruling the BMC -- India's richest municipal corporation -- since 1985, but the BJP came very close to dislodge it from the prestigious local body in 2017 with wins in 82 seats compared to the Shiv Sena's 84.

The BJP, ever since the Shiv Sena ditched it after the 2019 assembly elections and joined hands with the NCP and Congress to form the Maha Vikas Aghadi government in the state, has vowed to finish off SS-UBT's domination of the BMC, which the BJP thinks could further lead to the SS-UBT's unravelling.

"Daal shijayla thevli aahe; neet shijlyavar saglyanna kalelach (The curry is kept on the stove for cooking; everybody will know once it is ready to be served)," is how this insider cryptically revealed about the SS-UBT and MNS reunion.

"These are so far exploratory discussions, but both the Thackerays would be happy if some agreement is reached," says the insider.

The media caught the wind of this probable coming together on the morning of July 6 when MNS Vice President and Raj Thackeray confidant Abhijit Panse was seen outside Rajya Sabha MP Sanjay Raut's Bhandup residence in north east Mumbai.

"Sanjay Raut is my close friend and I came to meet him for personal work," is how Panse evades the query about a possible patch up between the two brothers from

IMAGE: Uddhav and Raj Thackeray.

Interestingly, Panse and Raut travelled together from Bhandup to the Saamana newspaper office in Prabhadevi, south central Mumbai, and spent some 90 minutes discussing political developments in Raut's car even as Panse's car followed them.

"Considering the current state of flux in Maharashtra we did discuss political developments," says Panse, who met MNS President Raj Thackeray after his "discussions over political developments" with Raut raised many political eyebrows.

"It is a given that the media will talk about my meeting with him (Raut) given the current imbroglio in Maharashtra politics. I am not surprised," says Panse.

Senior SS-UBT functionaries flatly deny that they had any inkling about Panse-Raut car-diplomacy.

SS-UBT's South Mumbai Lok Sabha MP Arvind Sawant believes that the possibility of the MNS and SS-UBT aligning together looks "quiet difficult."

Former Shiv Sena Lok Sabha MP from Aurangabad (now Sambhajinagar) Chandrakant Khaire says, "I did see on television that the former chief of the Bharatiya Vidyarthi Sena, the student wing of the Shiv Sena (Panse) met Raut saheb. I can't comment whether the two parties will come together or not, but such a decision rests with Uddhav saheb and only he can take a call on it."

"After all every MNS sainik is also a former Shiv Sainik who owes loyalty to Balasaheb (Thackeray, the party founder and its supremo). They are also original Shiv Sainiks. Even grassroots workers and cadres of both the parties fondly wish that the two parties come together for the benefit of the Marathi manoos," says Khaire.

Anil Parab, former transport minister in the Maha Vikas Aghadi government and three-time SS-UBT MLC, echoes both Khaire and Sawant.

"They regularly meet each other given their personal friendship," says Parab trying to downplay the car-diplomacy between Panse and Raut.

While refusing to admit or deny the possibility of a SS-UBT-MNS reunion, Parab says, "Any decision in such matters is taken by Uddhav saheb. They (Panse-Raut) are close friends just like many from our side sometime meet people like Bala Nandgaonkar and other MNS leaders. That doesn't mean anything," adds Parab, who was under the Enforcement Directorate lens on charges of money laundering last year.

On reports of some Shiv Sena MLAs from the Eknath Shinde camp seeking political shelter under their mother party, Parab says, "I don't know anything. Nobody is in touch with me. I can't say though if they are in touch with Uddhav saheb. Whatever the case, the ultimate decision rests with Uddhav saheb."

IMAGE: Balasaheb Thackeray, centre, flanked by his son Uddhav, left, and nephew Raj, right.

Political observers in Maharashtra who have been keenly watching the MNS since its inception in 2006 believe that the two parties reuniting could add significant heft to the political fortunes of the two Thackerays, particularly Raj and his MNS, who has been lost in the wilderness of Maharashtra politics after shining bright in the 2009 Vidhan Sabha and Lok sabha elections.

While the MNS's independent debut into electoral politics saw it emerge victorious in 13 assembly seats in Maharashtra, equally significantly the MNS dented chances of a dozen Shiv Sena-BJP alliance candidates in seats across the urban belts of Thane, Mumbai and Nashik, says a political analyst.

"The MNS tallied 24 per cent votes in Mumbai, considered the Shiv Sena's strongest bastion in October 2009 under Balasaheb (Thackeray)'s leadership, the latter mustered only 18 per cent popular votes cast in that assembly election," he adds.

In fact, the MNS had already proved its electoral might when it ensured that the SS-BJP alliance lost all six Lok Sabha seats in Mumbai in the general elections held in April 2009 along with Pune, Nashik, Kalyan, Thane and Aurangabad.

However, the MNS, says this analyst, peaked after its maiden foray and failed to sustain the tempo in the 2014 assembly elections when it won only one seat from Junnar in Pune district.

"If the MNS and SS-UBT do indeed come together, even if it is political expediency, the MNS will benefit significantly given the sympathy factor that is now working in (Uddhav) Thackeray's favour and against the BJP," adds this political analyst.

"The SS-UBT-MNS combine will register a historic, record-breaking victory riding on the votes of Mumbai's Marathi manoos and the sympathy wave that is only working in favour of Thackeray," he says.

"It will resurrect Raj Thackeray's political career for sure.

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