Uddhav Thackeray has finally and formally become chief of the Shiv Sena, though he won't be called the Shiv Sena Pramukh. That post will forever belong to his father Bal Thackeray, who passed away last November.
Following his coronation, Uddhav will be called the Sena Paksha
Pramukh or party president.
The rank and file in the Sena were expecting a reshuffle at the national executive of the party that was held on January 23 or soon after.
It didn't happen that day and now nobody in the Sena is sure when it will happen. In the Sena's hierarchy, the Sena chief is assisted by netas and up-netas in running the party.
The netas are given different organisational responsibilities. In a political party, where one has to deal with various problems and issues, it makes more sense to appoint party functionaries for them, which also helps party bosses decentralise work and get feedback from the ground.
Ordinary Sainiks - who form the backbone of the Sena - are hoping that their president will soon choose his full-fledged team. Of the 13 posts of netas, four are vacant. Sainiks also feel that some of the ageing netas should be relieved and fresh blood infused into the organisation.
Uddhav will have to pick his men and probably reshuffle the top brass of the Sena. In the past few years, he has been appointing office bearers and distributing party tickets for the elections but Bal Thackeray used to hand-pick some of them.
From now on, Uddhav will have complete freedom to pick and choose. Partymen hope he will use this to his advantage - choosing the agenda, picking the right men and getting on with the job.
The only hitch could be whether he will pick the right men. Currently in the Sena, there are more than a dozen ambitious leaders who are waiting for elevation. Some of them are capable and some not. What the Sainiks are wondering is, who will be picked by their leader?
The Thackeray cousins - Uddhav and Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) chief Raj - have claimed the legacy of the Sena chief, which also led to a bitter power tussle between them.
However, both have one thing in common - they have not built a strong second-rung leadership. This is where they differ from the senior Thackeray. He cultivated strong leaders - Manohar Joshi, Narayan Rane, Chhagan Bhujbal, Ganesh Naik, Anand Dighe, Dattaji Nalawade, Subhash Desai, Dattaji Salvi, Diwakar Raote, Sanjay Raut and several others. Almost all of them were capable and proved their mettle.
For some reason, the Thackeray cousins are unwilling to build a strong second-rung. Going by what their close aides say, the cousins don't want a repeat of what happened to their uncle. Influential leaders such as Bhujbal, Rane and Naik had rebelled against Thackeray and joined rival parties. But then, will the cousins be able to build a strong organisation without a capable second layer of functionaries?
As they say in political circles, one may be able to influence people and grab their attention but one definitely needs a strong organisation to convert the support in votes. Will the Thackeray cousins follow this path or invent some new way to rule?
The column will be back on February 25.
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