Shiv Sena supremo Bal Thackeray is back, in an implicit admission that he erred in his political judgement. A few years ago, Thackeray had annointed his son Uddhav as the party’s executive president bypassing his cousin Raj, who went on to form the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS). Incidentally, the MNS spoiled the prospects of the Shiv Sena in the recent Maharashtra Assembly elections.
It took one electoral defeat for the Sena patriarch to realise that compared to Raj, Uddhav lacks charisma, appeal and assertiveness.
Thackeray, who has received a much needed boost by retaining the coveted post of mayor of Mumbai and Thane civic bodies, now plans to interact with the party MPs, legislators, corporators and even office bearers every fortnight at the party’s headquarters — Sena Bhavan in north central Mumbai — to re-establish rapport which was missing over the years.
The Sena supremo’s move is crucial, as Raj has already announced his decision to start his state-wide tour from January to consolidate his party’s position ahead of the crucial elections to the BrihanMumbai Municipal Corporation, scheduled to take place in 2012. Incidentally, the Sena chief and Uddhav have gone to Mahabaleshwar for a five-day rest to self-introspect and rejig the party’s strategy.
A senior party leader, who did not want to be quoted, told Business Standard: “The party’s dilly dallying over its original ‘Marathi Manoos’ plank cost it, as it helped Raj Thackeray make inroads in the traditional Sena strongholds and also in newly constituted Lok Sabha and state Assembly constituencies. Raj’s violent agitation against residents of Uttar Pradesh and Bihar reminded the traditional Sena supporters of similar campaigns launched by the Thackeray senior against south Indians way back in the 1970s.
However, the Shiv Sena’s move to ridicule Raj and his plank went against the party. Now the party’s revival will be possible as the Balasaheb magic will work.” The Sena leader did not even rule out a possibility of working out an arrangement under which Raj could be reaccomodated in the Sena fold.
Bal Thackeray’s decision to be at the centrestage is also crucial, especially when the Sena’s long-time ally, the Bharatiya Janata party (BJP), has suddenly started calling the shots in the Maharashtra politics.
The BJP, which won 46 seats compared to the Sena’s 44 in the recent Assembly polls, renominated its legislator Madhu Chavan in the December 18 elections to the Maharashtra Legislative Council. This is despite the Sena’s move to field former leader of the Opposition in the state Assembly, Ramdas Kadam, who lost the Assebmly elections.
A triangular contest is inevitable as the Congress and BJP are determined to win the elections, while the Sena is seriously worried over keeping its flock intact. The BJP has also made it clear that it would not leave the post of the Leader of Opposition in the state legislative council to the Shiv Sena. This is for the first time since 1990 that the Sena would not hold the post in the state legislature.