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Sena can't ignore chinks in its rank and file

It was certainly not a coincidence when Manohar Joshi blurted out that his party leadership wanted to resolve the issue of the memorial of late Shiv Sena chief Bal Thackeray on friendly terms with the Congress. Four days before his statement, the Congress-led state government supported the Shiv Sena Dussehra rally in the Bombay High Court, saying it was a religious congregation arranged every year. The state government pleader, who receives a directive from the law and judiciary department headed by CM Prithviraj Chavan, was in full support of the Sena rally.

What Joshi has sought to put forward is his party leadership’s friendly overtures with the Congress, and for that he seems to have decided to raise a storm over the emotional issue of the memorial. Many who keep a close tab on Sena happenings would have been surprised to hear this from Joshi. This was because Joshi was in a spot soon after Thackeray senior’s demise, when a demand came that the memorial could be set up on the premises of Kohinoor Mills, where Joshi’s son owns huge stakes.

Joshi had a tough time skirting the issue of Kohinoor Mills that is bang opposite the Shiv Sena Bhavan at Dadar. Hence, his calculated risk of doubting Uddhav’s leadership skills to deal with the issue has raised a few questions.

There is no denying the fact that Joshi, 75, has been hurt by his party chief’s denial to give him a ticket for a berth in the Parliament. However, he conveniently forgets that the late Bal Thackeray had openly spoken about compulsory retirement of septuagenarian leaders.

Let’s discuss a few issues raised by Joshi. He said that had it been a memorial of Bal Thackeray’s father, the Sena supremo would have toppled the government. It is indeed a bold statement, considering Joshi was Shiv Sena’s first leader to occupy the coveted post of leader of Opposition in the state assembly after the 1990 general elections. He lost it in 1991, when Chhagan Bhujbal rebelled along with a group of Sena MLAs. Joshi was again favoured by Thackeray senior, when the Shiv Sena-BJP alliance assumed power in 1995. Even then, it was said that Thackeray was in favour of Sudhir Joshi, the nephew of Manohar Joshi. But overnight developments saw the post come Joshi senior’s way.

The job of toppling a government lies with the people who represent the party in the State legislature, or in the Parliament. Since the Thackerays have never been to any of the houses, it is up to leaders, including Joshi, to prepare for a face-off with the government. If someone asked them what the party leaders had done for an early execution of the memorial, they would have no satisfactory answer.

Joshi has blamed his party chief for the absence of the required aggressiveness for the early execution of the memorial. Rubbing salt on wounds, he said that the present Sena, under the leadership of Uddhav, felt the memorial could be built by being friendly and soft towards the Congress. Exchange of letters and missives with the Congress government do not work and even Balasaheb knew this, says the former Lok Sabha speaker, raising doubts over Uddhav’s capability to lead the party.

Joshi has caused severe damage to his party by questioning the leadership and its friendliness with the Congress. Uddhav has had several meetings with Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan, and has never shown a keen desire to project his party as a full-blooded opposition, nor has he asked his party legislators to put the government on the mat over issues that top the party agenda, or are of grave public concern.

During the Monsoon session, his MLAs were given a folder containing a list of points to be raised in the state legislature. Interestingly, the folder came halfway through the session. Additionally, the points were not supported by data. Joshi’s allegation of friendliness is difficult to ignore for the party. It’s also timely, as 11 months have passed since the death of the Sena supremo. In any case, there aren’t too many to support Joshi’s tirade, as he lacks popularity, both in the party as well as in his bastion, Dadar. But Shiv Sena will definitely have to review its present political role.

— The writer is Political Editor of MiD DAY 

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