Why Raj, Uddhav Thackeray have to bury the hatchet

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Ever since Maharashtra’s Tiger Balasaheb Thackeray (BT) gave up his body, the question uppermost in everyone’s minds is whether his son and nephew, the two inheritors of the mantle, unite?

This writer believes that it is in the cousins’ interest to unite and attempts to lay a framework for a united party.

Firstly what made Thackeray so popular? He was bold and an excellent orator; he knew how to connect – even gossip – with the audience. He had a sense of humour and espoused the cause of the Marathi manoos. Despite political differences, he maintained cordial personal relationships with his political opponents and was a nationalist by his own definition. Importantly, the Shiv Sena never sought votes in the name of caste.

Thackeray owed his success to his own personality as much to his late wife Meenatai’s. She not only complemented but knew how to get the best out of him. Nephew Raj Thackeray has modelled himself on the Tiger, while son Uddhav has followed his mother’s footsteps. So the personalities of Raj and Uddhav are complementary to each other in the same way as Balasaheb’s complemented Meenatai’s.

Thus, if the cousins believe that they can individually and separately inherit Balasaheb’s mantle they might like to look in the mirror.

Together they may be a fighting force, separate they are weaker. Their common goal is working for the benefit of the Marathi manoos and Maharashtra. Their vote bank is the former, although the Sena is assumed to derive some benefit from its association with the BJP. A split in the Marathi vote divides the community and benefits the Congress-NCP combine, as we saw in the 2009 Lok Sabha and assembly elections.

A Raj-Uddhav combine can pose a serious threat to the Congress-NCP, whose performance has been lacklustre and devoid of vision or dynamism. They are driven by the Central leadership who see the state as a cash cow. Maharashtra needs a regional party that promotes the state’s interests. This is how other states have progressed – by developing a strong regional leadership.

Before we look at the framework for the cousins to work together, it would be useful to state their strengths and weaknesses.

Uddhav is a thinker, a silent worker, the inheritor of the Shiv Sena symbol, Sena Bhawan and the paper Saamna – all of which have strong bonds with the Marathi manoos. However, he is a weak orator, has not endeared himself to many, not to forget recent health problems. Senior leaders stayed in the Sena due to their allegiance to Balasaheb. With his departure they might choose to wither away. He is an excellent photographer but Saamna needs him to write and connect with the manoos, just like his father did.

Raj connects with the youth, and is an outstanding speaker. He has charisma and strong leadership qualities. His Azad Maidan speech, post the unforgettable 11 August rally, showed he connected with the crowds just like his Kaka (Balasaheb). The secret of the rally’s success was the support Raj continues to receive from all shades of parties in Maharashtra, where Marathi asmita is concerned. He is a streetfighter whom people trust. The Sena brand of politics fits Raj to the T. Raj has built his MNS from scratch. The party’s performance in the 2009 Assembly elections indicated Raj’s arrival on the state political scene. To become a powerful force in state politics he needs to move away from being a vote-breaker to a vote catcher for which needs the Sena and Saamna, too.

If the estranged brothers put their egos aside, do not allow aides to create a rift, here is a framework for them to work together.

A one-to-one meeting between Uddhav, Raj and their wives where all that is in the heart is spoken with an intent to restart with a clean slate. Till this is done they should be silent, refrain from responding to speculation in the media that could be the handiwork of their opponents. This would require great maturity.

Two, decide a political agenda. Are they going to carry forward Thackeray’s approach of the Marathi manoos, Maharashtra and Hindutva, or only the first two that Raj follows? Importantly, the Marathi manoos should be reinterpreted to mean sons of soil and respect of local culture and not against immigration by resident Indians from other states. Subsequently, consider expanding outside Maharashtra.

Importantly, they have to decide individual roles. Assisted by Udhav’s son Aditya, Raj would be the public speaker and expand the party’s base at the grassroots level. Uddhav would decide national and state-level strategies in consultation with Raj. He could handle all matters concerning the Mumbai Municipal Corporation, national affairs and focus on making Saamna an all Maharashtra newspaper while Raj focuses on Maharashtra.

Four, close aides must be explained the benefits of a stronger and larger party that could create growth avenues for all. Expand the size of the market, as marketers would say, rather than fight for a larger share of shrinking market.

Lastly, appoint three senior leaders to select and recommend office-bearers for each city and district. It would be based on seniority in the undivided Sena and not current positions.

If the cousins can successfully work together they will rejuvenate Maharashtra. This is, after all, the state that produced leaders like Sant Dyaneshwar, Shivaji, Veer Savarkar, Jyotiba Phule and Babasaheb Ambedkar. Few know that in the 18th century Marathas ruled over large parts of India through the Peshwas, Scindias, Gaekwads, Holkars and Bhonsles. Shivaji’s step-brother ruled Thanjavur (Tamil Nadu) from 1676 to 1855.

Balasaheb’s legacy is in their hands. Hope humility and wisdom prevail.

The author is a Maharashtrian by birth, national affairs analyst and founder of

www.esamskriti.com

First published www.firstpost.com. Link http://www.firstpost.com/politics/why-raj-uddhav-thackeray-have-to-bury-the-hatchet-578774.html