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'Uddhav Balasaheb Thackeray is raging for a fight'

June 27, 2022 07:49 IST
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'The impression that Uddhav saheb is naram (soft), anukool (congenial), manmilau (amiable) is true, but he is Balasaheb's son. So, aggression comes naturally to him.'

IMAGE: Maharashtra Chief Minister and Shiv Sena President Uddhav Thackeray virtually addresses the people of the state in Mumbai, Wednesday, June 22, 2022, a day after Eknath Shinde mounted a rebellion against his leadership. Photograph: PTI Photo

Four Shiv Sena functionaries close to Uddhav Thackeray tell Prasanna D Zore/ that the Sena president is determined to break the back of Eknath Shinde's rebellion.

The fight between the two Shiv Sena factions headed by Uddhav Balasaheb Thackeray and Eknath Sambhaji Shinde, as expected given the Shiv Sena DNA, has finally hit the streets -- a theatrical arena so loved and ingrained in every Shiv Sainik, who, even 10 years after his death, swear their undying loyalty to party founder Balasaheb Keshav Thackeray.

IMAGE: Uddhav Thackeray greets supporters gathered outside his home Matoshree, after leaving his official residence Varsha, in Mumbai, Wednesday, June 22, 2022. His elder son and Maharashtra Minister Aaditya Thackeray is also seen. Photograph: PTI Photo

Uddhav, often labelled 'congenial', 'amiable, 'not-so-aggressive', 'easy going', appears to have discarded these labels as he fights the battle of his political life to vanquish the rebellion of his 'own loyal party men' daring to create a vertical split in the party his late father founded in June 1966 and through sheer street smartness and street demonstrations expanded not just in Mumbai but across the state.

"These rebels took Uddhavsaheb for mulu-mulu mavshi (a Marathi term that defines a person afraid to take on his adversaries or show aggression when needed). But the way he gathered himself, his party and his family after the first two days of shocking rebellion and changed his avatar should have taken these gaddars (traitors) by surprise," says a Shiv Sena MLC supporting Uddhav.

"This is just the beginning. Wait and watch what follows now," predicts an MP who has closely watched Uddhav's and his father's style of functioning, invoking a Marathi phrase that is consistently mouthed by spokespersons of both the Sena factions in different contexts.

"The impression that Uddhav saheb is naram (soft or not-so-aggressive), anukool (congenial), manmilau (amiable) is true, but he is after all Balasaheb's son. So, aggression comes naturally to him and he is showing this side of his personality at the right time," says another Shiv Sena MLC from Uddhav's camp.

"It's a warning to those rebels who think he is unlike his father. Saheb (Bal Thackeray) was all fire and attack, but his son combines tact, diplomacy and aggression in equal measure when needed," adds this MLC.

IMAGE: Shiv Sena supporters gather outside Matoshree. Photograph: ANI Photo

Uddhav, who first sought to communicate with the rebel Shiv Sena MLAs and Shiv Sainiks, whom he calls his party's roots and strength, through a live Facebook address on June 22, offered to quit the party post and his chief ministership in Eknath Shinde's favour.

The very same evening, in a symbolic, yet emotional, gesture to his party cadres and rebels, Thackeray and his family vacated the chief minister's official bungalow Varsha in Malabar Hill, south Mumbai, and moved to his parents's home Matoshree in suburban Bandra -- a strong emotional magnet for loyal Sena workers -- from where his father and his band of supporters won many a street fight and scotched rebellions from Shiv Sena leaders like Chhagan Bhujbal, Narayan Rane and Raj Thackeray.

"The party emerged stronger after every rebellion. This time too we will win," says the first MP.

While the rebellion faced by the Shiv Sena is unprecedented -- 38 MLAs who won on the party's bow and arrow election symbol -- switched loyalties to Eknath Shinde and flew to Guwahati after spending a night in Surat.

"Balasaheb's son is raging for a fight; Uddhav Balasaheb Thackeray is raging for a fight to the finish," says another Sena MP guiding the party's social media messaging against the rebels and directed towards its online support base.

'It's not the time to flash the 'V' (victory) symbol. By Balasaheb's aashirwad (blessings) that time will come soon. Now is the time to show a clenched fist, now is the time to show the rebels how united Shiv Sainiks are in this hour of crisis,' Uddhav told his confidantes at a close-room meeting the day after he returned to Matoshree, this Sena MP reveals.

IMAGE: Aaditya Thackeray flashed the victory sign to Shiv Sena supporters who gathered outside Matoshree. Photograph: ANI Photo

"And after he came out of the national executive meet (on Saturday, June 25), after his usual namastes, he did clinch his fist twice, sending a message to Sainiks to brace for unity and aggression. It's a long fight, a long fight he (Uddhav) will win," says the Sena MP.

"Saheb was quite emotional during his Facebook live. He spoke with a choked throat and was almost in tears. But the man who came out in front of Sainiks after the Shiv Sena national executive meeting was a man of steel. Being the gentleman that he is, saheb still loves the rebels, their families, but for the party's sake he can't take this rebellion lying down," adds the Sena MP.

"That's what he learned from his father. He is determined to break the back of this rebellion and bring glory to his father's rebellion," says another Shiv Sena MP.

"Despite recovering from his illness it was Uddhavji's decision to hold the national executive at Sena Bhavan and not at Matoshree or any five-star hotel," says the afore-quoted MLC.

Sena Bhavan -- another pilgrimage landmark like Matoshree

IMAGE: A Shiv Sainiks' bike rally in Uddhav Thackeray's support outside Sena Bhavan, Sunday, June 26, 2022. Photograph: Kunal Patil/PTI Photo

It was after the June 25 national executive meeing that it was decided to take strict action against the ministers among the rebel MLAs in the Shinde camp. Senior party functionaries were asked to take to the streets, literally, at the meeting.

"Every senior leader -- MPs, MLAs -- were asked to walk the streets after leaving Sena Bhavan. While Uddhav saheb too wanted to, but -- because of his recovery from health issues -- was advised against taking to the streets before entering his car, (Sanjay) Raut saheb and Priyanka (Chaturvedi)ji (both Rajya Sabha MPs) did walk the streets before entering their respective cars parked some distance away."

"The message to everybody (rebel Sena MLAs and Sainiks) is clear," says the second MLC, who was among the workers showing solidarity with their leader outside the party headquarters.

"It is time to hit the streets, to adorn Shiv Sena bandanas around the shoulders. It is the time to show them (the rebels) what the Shiv Sena means to those who are still loyal to the party, its ethos, and the legacy of Balasaheb Thackeray," says the MLC.

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