The Shiv Sena on Saturday literally switched to silent mode as party chief Bal Thackeray's daughter-in-law Smita Jaidev Thackeray said she planned to join the Congress.
The phones of top Sena leaders remained 'unavailable', 'switched off' or 'not reachable since a prominent national daily broke the news, suddenly diverting the party's attention from the election for a new Mumbai mayor to replace incumbent Shubha Raul.
According to an interview with the English daily, Smita has claimed that she is being sidelined by a coterie in Matoshree, the Sena chief's residence in Bandra East, and was being denied her due in the party.
She has also alleged that she was promised a berth in Rajya Sabha last year, but at the last minute it was given to senior journalist Bharat Kumar Raut.
Expressing her frustration, Smita -- the estranged wife of Thackeray's son Jaidev -- has also said that she is feeling stifled and "suffocated" in Matoshree.
The 48-year-old Thacekray bahu is enamoured by the leadership qualities of Congress president Sonia Gandhi and her son Rahul, and says both of them are doing a great job of leading the country.
Expressing her admiration for Sonia and Rahul as well as the Congress ideology, Smita said she plans to call on them and join the national ruling party soon.
Besides being deprived of any personal progress and getting marginalised in the Shiv Sena, Smita said that the party is being "unfair to Maharashtrians" with its divisive and parochial politics. She also frowned upon attacks on fellow Indians in the name of language and regionalism.
Smita, who loves to dabble with Bollywood and has produced a couple of Hindi films including "Haseena Maan Jayegi", had grown into a power centre during the Shiv Sena-Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) rule in Maharashtra 1995-99.
She continued to live in Matoshree with the Thackeray family though her husband had left the household several years ago.
However, a few years ago, she moved into a separate bungalow in Juhu as it kept her close to the hub of Bollywood.
Her son Rahul, who has learnt the craft of filmmaking from abroad, is on the verge of making his first film in Marathi.
If and when Smita joins the Congress, it will be the second big defection from the Shiv Sena since Bal Thackeray's nephew, Raj Thackeray, left the party nearly three years ago to launch the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS).