Somaiya, a victim of his own ways?
Here’s an incident from mid-2017, which was reported by several local newspapers, including Hello Nashik, a city supplement of Lokmat.
At the time when Chhagan Bhujbal was still languishing in a jail in Mumbai, Kirit Somaiya landed in Nashik for a party executive meet. He was a Member of Parliament, with absolutely no authority to take any decision whatsoever on how Bhujbal or anybody else should be dealt with by the government. But emboldened by his party’s encouragement to take on the Shiv Sena and Uddhav Thackeray, who he had relentlessly tormented during the municipal elections a few months earlier, he landed at Bhujbal’s farm and private residence and ordered the local police to take down the signboard at the gates and seal the property. The cops refused, stating sealing of private property can’t be done without a court order. They said that even if such orders were issued, their job would only be providing protection to the civic authorities who were to implement the order.
Even as Somaiya insisted, a mob of nearly 200-300 NCP supporters arrived, armed with rods, sticks and cricket bats. One look at their angry demeanour and Somaiya, according to reporters who had accompanied the mob, ran for his life. He barely managed to get into his car and shut the door, before the driver revved up the engine and hastily left Bhujbal’s farmhouse. The police advised him to leave the city, as the anger among Bhujbal supporters was palpable and they were finding it difficult to calm down the boys. Somaiya took their advice and beat a hasty retreat from Nashik. While newspapers reported the incident, Somaiya succeeded in preventing their videos from going viral.
Over the years, Somaiya has been unable to shake the propensity to jump in with two left feet into every quarrel, even within his own party. Much of the campaign against Union minister Nitin Gadkari, when he was the BJP president in the pre-2014 era, and seemed the likely favourite of the RSS to become either the leader of the Opposition or the Prime Minister, was run by his own party men. Somaiya, well-connected with the media in Mumbai, used his resources to put juicy leads against Gadkari. Gadkari had to step back from a second term as the party president, for, despite the RSS’ best efforts, some older leaders were determined to sideline him. It is another matter that those senior leaders who used Somaiya against his own then party president themselves stand sidelined today.
Somaiya, however, got lucky with Maharashtra chief minister Devendra Fadnavis, who is a bitter rival of Gadkari in Nagpur, appreciating his efforts and encouraging him to take on the Shiv Sena ahead of the municipal elections in 2017. Somaiya was relentless in labelling Uddhav Thackeray a mafia. Although people questioned both Somaiya and the BJP for their partnership with the Sena in the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation for, all those years that Somaiya had labelled the Thackerays as corrupt, some of that mud stuck and the Sena managed to win the BMC only by the skin of its teeth.
But the Thackerays have always been long on memory and intransigent on paybacks. I knew if there ever was an alliance between the BJP and the Shiv Sena, Somaiya would be its first casualty. He is a sitting MP and while the BJP has no reason to change his candidature, they have kept Somaiya hanging – that is the only seat for which the BJP has not awarded a ticket for so far.
With another video of Somaiya accusing Uddhav Thackeray of crawling before builders going viral –an interview he reportedly gave to a Marathi news channel a few days ago – I tend to think he may have burnt even the remnants of his bridges with everybody. The alliance with the Shiv Sena is of crucial importance to the BJP. The ruthlessness the current leadership has shown towards retiring its revered founder members makes me believe they may not find it too difficult to sacrifice one seat and an ordinary sitting MP to gain much more across the state. Fadnavis is attempting to stand by him, but for how long? Gadkari could have swung it for him, but clearly won’t. However, it is for Somaiya to have known never to meddle in other people’s business, however tempting. And never to be left friendless in politics, where there are no permanent friends or enemies.
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