Shiv Sena executive president Uddhav Thackeray’s heartfelt statement in the party mouthpiece Saamna about never being able to measure up to his father Balasaheb elevated him in the eyes of the Sainiks and Sena sympathisers as no oratory ever would. Immediately after this statement, a party meeting was convened and Uddhav installed as the de-facto president who would take all decisions. He was also appointed editor of Saamna, a position his father had held.
But, there is a lot more than meets the eye.
The past month has been an emotional whirlwind for the Sena. Bal Thackeray’s demise has left the party with a huge void and a gigantic legacy. The responsibility of meeting both now rests on the frail shoulders of Uddhav.
Experts and political observers point out that Uddhav who has been the number two in the party since 2004, is aware of his drawbacks, of his lack of oratorical skills or charisma. He has used the past month to convey to Sainiks that he is different, and so is his style of politics.
His statewide thanksgiving tour speeches have seen him consoling Sainiks, asking them to stop crying and help realise the Sena chief’s dream of winning the 2014 elections. “ If one looks closely at Uddhav’s moves in the past month, his outlook has been sober and mature. Far from the militant style protests, he has shown that the Sena under him will have more patience and control,” said senior political commentator Prakash Akolkar.
Political expert B Venkatesh Kumar agrees. “Uddhav is trying to tell people he cannot imitate Thackeray senior but that he will take the Sena ahead in his own way,” Kumar said.
Also, after Thackeray’s death, there seems to be a power struggle among leaders to prove who is closest to Matoshree.
New voters, however, are looking for a futuristic leader. “Uddhav has to get out of the current coterie of people around him and reach out to people,” said political expert Surendra Jondhale.