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HindustanTimes Mon,14 Jul 2014

Drift is not policy, Mr Thackeray

Smruti Koppikar, Editor, Special Assignments, Hindustan Times  Mumbai, February 13, 2013
First Published: 01:43 IST(13/2/2013) | Last Updated: 01:45 IST(13/2/2013)

Uddhav Thackeray is strapping up, as only he can, to lead his party workers in a grand march later this month to protest the economic policies of the UPA government. It is being widely seen as his first and momentous public appearance since taking over as the president of the Shiv Sena. He has already directed his “boys” to shut down the city as only Sainiks can.

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Later this week, it will be three months since his father passed away. Three months should have been sufficient to re-focus his attention and devote his energy to shaping a post-Bal Thackeray party that could keep pace with a rapidly transforming city and state. If he has new ideas, he has not spoken about them in the “big” interview that he recently gave to his own newspaper, Saamna.

At various levels in the party, there’s an unmistakable sense of drift, some confusion and an increasing irrelevance born out of a weary sameness of thought.

That Uddhav has chosen to remain as inaccessible to his party workers as he used to be when his father was around, has only added to the drift that’s now palpable in shakhas and among foot soldiers. The contradictions that the party has displayed in the last few weeks have only added to the confusion.

Remember the bickering over the Shivaji Park memorial to the late Thackeray? While key leaders of the party, enjoying the authority to make public statements, dug in their heels over a memorial there, Uddhav was willing to have it elsewhere.

In the interview to Saamna, he spoke of how the Marathi vote should not be divided between the two proponents of the Marathi manoos but did not say how he would take the idea forward with estranged cousin Raj.

Shiv Sainiks in Mumbai didn’t mark Valentine’s Day as their work-day this year, but Sainiks in Uttar Pradesh went about their usual task of disrupting celebrations and couples.

His party’s stand on the local taxes rolled out this year, or soon to be rolled out, best manifests this drift and confusion. The Shiv Sena-led Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) is in the process of hastily converting its old property tax system based on rateable value of premises to a new one based on the ready reckoner rates.

As expected, there are a number of problems, inconsistencies and errors in the process and the new bills issued, with retrospective effect from 2010-11.

The principle to bring old properties on par with relatively new constructions in the city is all right but the BMC’s
rush to roll it out is not quite understandable.

This, when the party opposed the new system when it was mooted by the Thane municipal commissioner last year and when it voted against a five to six per cent increase in property tax in the Pune Municipal Corporation earlier this week.

It’s the same party taking different positions in different corporations. Is Uddhav’s party in favour of the new system and augmented taxes or is it against? Is Uddhav building bridges to Raj, or isn’t he? Does Uddhav have a plan for himself and the party or is he allowing drift and confusion to become policy? His refusal to engage and explain is only making the confusion worse.

A sense of drift may offer sanguine relief to tired politicians in the winter of their careers.

For Uddhav, on the threshold of a renewed political career, it could mean one of two things: the space to be as opportunistic as situations in the future demand or slackening hold over an inherited political empire.


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