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While Raj Thackeray was sleeping…

Whatever the correctness or otherwise of the Shiv Sena’s poaching exercise, Uddhav Thackeray has proved again he is a survivor.

mumbai Updated: Oct 17, 2017 19:07 IST
Sujata Anandan
Sujata Anandan
Hindustan Times
Mumbai,Raj Thackeray,Shiv Sena
Ahead of the statewide civic polls early this year, the Raj Thackeray-led MNS was in utter danger of decimation.

I do not know why Raj Thackeray is so mad at the poaching of six of his corporators in the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) by the Shiv Sena. Ahead of the statewide civic polls early this year, the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) was in utter danger of decimation as everyone from his party headed towards the Sena and the BJP for they knew the MNS had no future. At the time a Shiv Sainik had laughingly told me while there was a rush in other party offices for tickets, Raj might actually have to set up a desk on the streets and beg passersby to take a free ticket to contest the polls on his party’s behalf.

That did not happen, however, as both the Sena and the BJP were faced with the problem of plenty and could not accommodate every aspirant. The disappointed ticket-seekers then looked to the MNS but the party did not do too well by comparison to its own performance in previous elections — it got half a dozen seats in the BMC, even less in Nashik where the MNS was the ruling party. Everywhere else Raj Thackeray drew a blank.

But now if he has been caught napping while the Shiv Sena stole some eggs from under the nesting bird, who is to blame? Many Shiv Sainiks (and these include those in the MNS) believe Raj is not serious about building or sustaining a political party. “All he cares for is wealth, cars and a good life. A political party is just a side attraction,” one Sainik who was associated with him since his student days told me recently.

Actually, his story is tickling pink. As a student leader he had managed to break the NSUI’s stranglehold on a university body in the early 1990s and had been sent to meet Raj Thackeray who was then heading the Bharatiya Vidyarthi Sena. Far from felicitating or encouraging this student leader and his team, they were kept waiting for long until Raj emerged in a lungi, rubbing his eyes and brushing his teeth at a few minutes to noon. “There was no felicitation or congratulations. He did not even accept the box of pedas we had taken to him by putting our sparse pocket money together, and flung it back at us saying, ‘Hey kay aahe!’ Within seconds he had dismissed us from the front hall of his home. I felt so insulted. My team was happy to have been in his presence but I knew even then that this was no way to build a student wing, much less a party.”

Nothing seems to have changed between then and now. For Raj , by all accounts, still parties through the night and continues to be a late riser. But no longer are his supporters happy to just catch a sight of him still in his night clothes at noon. The alarm bells did not ring for Raj even when his close friends warned him that no one was interested in signing up as graduate supporters of his party for polls to the legislative council a couple of years before the 2014 parliamentary and assembly polls — and it has been downhill ever since.

By contrast, Uddhav Thackeray seems far more serious about keeping his party afloat against the combined onslaught of not just opposition parties but also its ally, the BJP. Had he not poached the MNS corporators, the BJP would have bagged them and netted the all important BMC from the Shiv Sena. The outcome would have been the same for Raj Thackeray though, if not worse, because the BJP is now ruthless about decimating all its opposition and is not likely to accommodate Raj in the manner the Congress had done him or even Bal Thackeray in the past. His utility, if any, is only as a pawn against his cousin but even there I do not believe the BJP, already attempting to shrug off a troublesome ally, would help to resurrect a mortally wounded tiger or give him any teeth. And in the political jungle that Maharashtra is today, Raj should have known how to guard his flock and keep them from flying while he was still sleeping.

At the end of the day, it is a question of the survival of the fittest. Whatever the correctness or otherwise of the Shiv Sena’s poaching exercise, Uddhav Thackeray has proved again he is a survivor. Unlike his esteemed cousin who has learnt no lessons from past follies.

First Published: Oct 17, 2017 19:07 IST