A lot has changed in a year without Thackeray

It appears the Sena has chosen a path of wait-and-watch, sprinkled with negotiations and deliberations, which is contrary to its character. Several meetings have been held between Chavan and Uddhav, and no solution has emerged

This wasn’t how things worked in the Shiv Sena under its founder chief Bal Thackeray.

One year after the leader was laid to rest, the Sena, under the stewardship of his son Uddhav, has set its eyes on Mantralaya, hoping to resolve the issue of the senior Thackeray’s grand memorial, which alone is enough to judge the course of action with Uddhav at the helm.

This is an issue that can unite the Sena and unnerve rival parties, or disprove the ferocious credentials the Sena has worked so hard and long to establish.
During the days of the founder chief, such a long wait for something related to the party’s prestige was passé. Bal Thackeray’s decision would be final and the government would find a way to accommodate it.

What’s happening today is contrary to the style identified with the organisation. Nobody knows where the memorial would come up.

Will it be built at the Park Gymkhana, next to the Mayor’s bungalow or at the sprawling Mahalaxmi turf?
The Sena leadership has still got its eyes set on the racecourse, which it wants to convert into a theme park. It has even chalked out an exhaustive plan for it.

Of the 225 acres of land leased out to the Royal Western India Turf Club, 35 per cent belongs to the Sena-led Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation, and the party is hoping that by refusing to renew the club’s lease of the turf, it can manipulate the government into allowing its wish.

The Sena seems unwilling to discuss the issue at an appropriate forum such as the state legislature.

Despite handing out the proposed park’s design to its legislators during the monsoon session in July, the party did not ask its MLAs and MLCs to raise the matter in any of the legislative houses, a decision which surprised both legislators and party leaders who had been waiting for the orders to take on the Congress-led state government.

The issue remains where it was, with the party left feeling that Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan has renewed the lease to the RWITC ignoring its demand, even though it came up with the idea of another racecourse in Navi Mumbai or Thane, for which it was ready to offer a suitable piece of land.

Yet, the party has still not taken a confrontationist stance. This is not the conduct the city has seen from the Sena.

The recent past has seen party old guard Manohar Joshi raising questions over the potency of the current leadership to guide the party. Joshi, who has been chief minister, union minister and Lok Sabha speaker through his career, enjoyed the trust of Thackeray Sr. He kicked up a storm by casting doubts on Uddhav’s capability to lead from the front as far as the issue of the Thackeray memorial is concerned.

Joshi’s barbs may have unnerved the leadership, though they were borne of his frustration and desperation for the attention of the Sainiks. His grouse is Uddhav’s decision to dump old guards who formed the circle of confidantes to the deceased party patriarch.

Today, the posts of Sena leader or deputy leader have become irrelevant, thanks to Uddhav’s decision to rely mostly on his personal assistant Milind Narvekar and party secretary Anil Desai, followed by Eknath Shinde from Thane.

Sena cadres, unhappy with the current situation, have either gone into hibernation or disappeared from the scene. So in a bid to consolidate his position, Uddhav undertook a statewide tour early this year to address his local units chiefs in the Lok Sabha constituencies. It was his first tour after his father’s demise and the party was expecting it to be fiery, comparable to the yesteryear leader, but his mild manner was a disappointment to them. His critics within and outside the party allege that he is more eager to maintain an excellent rapport with the chief minister, a Congressman, who never felt any political challenge from the opposition. Even ally BJP leaders is sceptical of Uddhav’s moves and has got particularly worried after he did not show any keenness to accept the post of NDA convener.

— The writer is Political Editor, MiD DAY 

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