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HindustanTimes Sun,28 Dec 2014
There really are no free lunches at Pawar’s table
Sujata Anandan
November 26, 2013
First Published: 20:58 IST(26/11/2013)
Last Updated: 21:06 IST(26/11/2013)

I never thought that I could be on the same page as Bal Thackeray’s wayward son Jaidev Thackeray. Perhaps the most apolitical of all of Thackeray’s heirs, Jaidev has hit the nail on the head when he suggested that instead of pussyfooting on a memorial for the Sena tiger, Sena leaders should buy a plot of land and build a suitable monument on it to commemorate their leader — after all they have bought land with their own money in the past and built many trendy commercial buildings.

The memorial has become a sore point within the Sena as the Congress-led Maharashtra government is reluctant to allot any of the suggested — and much desired — pieces of land (for example, at Shivaji Park) for the memorial. The dilly-dallying has gone on long enough and has also caused a rift between various Sena leaders including Manohar Joshi and Uddhav Thackeray, the Sena chief’s youngest son and political heir.

Joshi had suggested that, unlike Uddhav, Thackeray would have brought down the Congress government for a memorial for his own father under similar circumstances which, given Thackeray’s give and take style, may not be strictly true. But now NCP president Sharad Pawar flummoxes everybody by seizing the initiative and meeting various Sena leaders to sort out the memorial issue.

However, Pawar has no locus standi in the matter, except if you are generous enough to suggest that he is doing his old friend and rival a good turn after his death. After all, Pawar attended early meetings and encouraged Thackeray to set up the Sena in the 1960s and the two had remained friends despite some bitter rivalry in later years.

Thackeray had even bullied the BJP into not putting up a candidate against Pawar’s daughter Supriya Sule when she first sought entry into the Rajya Sabha and that too without Pawar asking him for a favour.

But we did not see any similar open reciprocation from Pawar for Thackeray, so I guess it is better late than never that the NCP chief does justice to his old friend.

Nonetheless, the move now arouses suspicion in view of the fact that elections to the Lok Sabha are close and Pawar would need every bit of help from all political parties — including the Sena and Jagan Reddy’s YSR Congress towards whom, too, he has made recent overtures — in case of a fractured verdict in Parliament.

Then, again, suggesting that the mayor’s bungalow be turned into a memorial for Thackeray is fraught with the danger of a land grab through the back door — the very idea presumes that the mayor’s bungalow is somehow the property of the Sena and that neither the Congress nor the NCP will ever come to power in the BMC and would never need the bungalow for its own party’s mayor.

Also, don’t forget what Pawar has done with the Yeshwantrao Chavan Centre. He has taken ownership of the institute when it was always meant to rest with the government and whichever CM would be in power. But now the centre, while doing exemplary work, is the Pawar family’s fiefdom.

With CM Prithhviraj Chavan proving to be a stumbling block in the NCP’s free run across the state, this is also one way of letting the Congress know who calls the shots in Maharashtra — and how their pitch might be queered if they do not take Pawar seriously.

The Congress, I believe, is doing its own deals with Raj Thackeray’s MNS to cut into the saffron combine’s tally at the Lok Sabha polls — that being the reason why, despite his best efforts, so far Narendra Modi has not been able to sew up a three-way alliance with the MNS. Now Pawar might want to get the Sena eating out of his own hands and what better way than this to press where their hearts bleed the most — on the issue of a memorial to their late leader?

Nothing that Pawar does comes without strings attached. The Sena will soon realise there are really no free lunches at Pawar’s table.


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