All questions over Thackeray cousins bridging the gap, that widened each day since 2005, have yielded no confident responses. Even after Raj abandoning his Alibaug tour midway to visit his cousin at Lilavati Hospital, close aides of both leaders reject that there’s been any noticeable change in stance.
According to party insiders it was on Saturday evening that Shiv Sena executive chief Uddhav Thackeray experienced uneasiness and chest pain. He decided to visit Lilavati Hospital to make up for a routine health checkup, which he had skipped earlier.
During the health check blockages were detected in some arteries and an angiography was done. Raj remained with his cousin, accompanied him to Matoshree, and wished for his good health. But is that enough to heal the wounds of the past? Raj and Uddhav have their separate identities, with the former carving his own political niche with 12 MLAs and presence in several municipal and local bodies.
Such a political space, created within a short span of time, is difficult to surrender, feel senior leaders from Congress and NCP. It’s excruciatingly difficult for any leader to create a vote bank. It was not easy for even a veteran like Sharad Pawar, who had to take with him stalwarts from the Congress to strengthen NCP’s bedrock. Raj’s vote bank is his own since it was carved out despite his uncle Bal Thackeray still heading the Shiv Sena, said a senior Congress leader.
Today MNS and Shiv Sena remain at loggerheads over myriad issues — be it various contracts of road construction and repairs, or purchases at BMC for running schools. Both of them are still engaged in a bitter game of one-upmanship at many civic bodies. Above all, the kind of language used by leaders from both outfits against each other during BMC polls was another illustration of the bitterness they nurse.
Raj has big political ambitions and he has set his eyes on the elections to the state assembly in 2014. He quit Shiv Sena on the issue of his position in the organisation, and a return to the mother ship now is unlikely to give him the status and importance he has claimed in the past.
Today Raj is the supreme leader of his party, which is a threat to Shiv Sena. He cannot abandon it just to align with his estranged cousin. Sources say Uddhav will not offer his cousin even a no 2 position in Sena, a formula discussed earlier. Even before Raj decided to quit, he was rejected for the responsibility of Mumbai and Pune civic bodies, a secret he shared during a rally ahead of BMC polls. His uncle offered him just Nashik, which Raj declined and decided to form his own party. It seems, there’s no coming back from that.
— The writer is Political Editor, MiD DAY