By Sushil Kutty
Uddhav Thackeray undid Bal Thackeray’s Hindutva legacy by linking up with the secular Congress and the NCP. And Aaditya Thackeray is being blamed for alienating Eknath Shinde. ‘UT’ was blind to ‘AT’ meddling in affairs out of his depth. But that would be diminishing Sanjay Raut’s role, hovering overhead!
‘UT’ should have understood that Raut was an overhead that would cost him dearly. Uddhav Thackeray vacating ‘Varsha’, the Maharashtra CM’s official residence, was symbolic of the slide. So, why’s Uddhav Thackeray clinging to the chair? Raut had told the world that party mattered, not the government. Frankly, to everybody listening, Raut’s days of “Ukhaad Diya” were up.
Sanjay Raut’s proximity to NCP supremo Sharad Pawar is thick. Like Eknath Shinde’s to Devendra Fadnavis. Aaditya Thackeray was collateral. Both UT and AT were in the cavalcade that left ‘Varsha’ for ‘Matoshree’, the Thackeray family residence. Things had gone from bad to worse in less than 48 hours.
The time to circle the wagons was long overdue, the Thackeray family could even have to lose the Shiv Sena. Eknath Shinde’s project “end unnatural alliance” with a takeover bid was ideated and incubated in a BJP laboratory. And right under the nose of Sharad Govindrao Pawar, the man who knows rebellions best, having engineered and led some of them himself!
For Uddhav Thackeray, the Shiv Sena is at stake, the party Balasaheb Thackeray founded and nurtured. Why ‘UT’ broke from legacy and shucked Hindutva, the Shiv Sena’s staple, is a mystery. Realization came too late. Uddhav Thackeray in his ‘Facebook Live’ said that he didn’t covet the CM’s post, but was coaxed by Sharad Pawar for the greater good. “Come, and I’ll make you Chief Minister,” he told Shinde
Is ‘UT’ naïve? Didn’t he know that the “remote” of the state was with the NCP? He should have known when NCP’s Nawab Malik ran riot with ultimatums to everybody who spoke out of turn. He should have known when ‘Vasooligate’ broke; when Sachin Vaze was cornered and caged; when Mumbai Police commissioner Parambir Singh broke cover; and when then Home Minister Anil Deshmukh landed behind bars.
In hindsight, three amateurs — UT, Raut and Thackeray Jr. — were led up the garden path by seasoned politicians! The NCP was playing a deep game none of the Sena trio figured out. A chance at power, leading the state, had boomeranged. And the dominance of the NCP continued.
The Congress kept to the contours of the common minimum programme. But it was impossible for the NCP, with Sharad Pawar at its head, to play second fiddle, least of all to greenhorns, rank amateurs — an inexperienced father, his presumptuous son, and an inflatable showboat, self-styled advisor.
Of the MVA trio, Sonia Gandhi kept the Congress as independent as possible, Uddhav Thackeray thought he was in control, and Sharad Pawar ensured the NCP had the controls! The impression created was that Uddhav Thackeray had Pawar’s back.
Uddhav Thackeray mingled with K. Chandrashekhar Rao, and Trinamool chief Mamata Banerjee, both self-made, tough as nails, politicians. Uddhav Thackeray was feted by MK Stalin, and Pinarayi Vijayan. Arvind Kejriwal was not lavish with praise, but not miserly either.
The feeling one got was that Uddhav Thackeray was an important cog—admired for the courage to break away from the ‘communal’—in the Opposition. ‘UT’ had created his own niche Hindutva. And Bal Thackeray’s Hindutva was dead and buried.
So, it is baffling why Sharad Pawar left Uddhav Thackeray to fend for himself. Pawar left Delhi saying it was an “internal problem of the Shiv Sena”. Then, after ‘UT’ delivered his ‘Facebook Live’, Pawar met ‘UT’. Did Pawar advise Uddhav to give government to Shinde and keep the party to himself?
Uddhav appears to have agreed. But Eknath Shinde is not Uddhav, and neither is he Chhagan Bhujbal who defected from the Sena to the Congress in 1991 when Pawar was still with the Congress. Auto-driver-turned-politician Eknath Shinde wants both party and government, also Balasaheb’s Hindutva that Uddhav Thackeray left by the wayside on the road to power.
The bottom-line is whatever ‘UT’ learned from Bal Thackeray he squandered; whatever he learned from Pawar was a lesson in self-destruction; and whatever lessons he’ll remember will be that which life has taught him in the last few days, after he was left to fend for himself.
One of which is that he should have kept an eye on the BJP and Shinde, and on Fadnavis and Shinde. Two, he had left the party vulnerable to takeover. The rebels are using the standoff to claim ownership of Balasaheb Thackeray, and Balasaheb’s party, both under the guise of following Balasabeb’s Hindutva!
UT must also have learned that the BJP will prefer to read the final rites over a toothless Shiv Sena, shorn of Hindutva. The BJP may even force a dissolution of the assembly and fresh elections, with sole claim over Hindutva—all the 30-plus rebel Shiv Sena MLAs fighting the elections under the lotus symbol. That will be Operation Kamal! (IPA Service)