One of the founder members of the Shiv Sena,Manohar Joshi appears to be on his way out of the party. A survivor of many a political slight,the 75-year-old was unceremoniously booed off stage at the Senas much-touted Dussehra rally on Sunday. It followed Joshi publicly criticising Sena chief Uddhav Thackerays way of functioning as weak and ineffective,and could just be the breaking point between the two.
If the incident marked Uddhav asserting his authority in the absence of his father and guide,the late Bal Thackeray,it also showed that Joshi has no support within a party he has served since 1966,with his grouses seen as serving own rather than public cause.
Joshi and Uddhavs relations began to sour ever since it was made evident to him that the party would not give him a ticket for the 2014 Lok Sabha polls,or accommodate him in the Rajya Sabha. While Joshi wants to contest from Mumbai South Central,the party is leaning towards a younger candidate,Rahul Shewale,against two-time sitting Congress MP Eknath Gaikwad.
Joshi showed his anger and bitterness openly many comparing it to the reaction of veteran leader L K Advani to Narendra Modis rising stature in the BJP. At a public function,Joshi said,If you want seniors to retire,let there be an amendment in the party constitution.
This did not go down well with the Sainiks,who point out that Joshi shouldnt complain given the many positions he has held for the party including BMC mayor,chief minister and speaker of the Lok Sabha. However,Joshi may not grieve for long. The veteran,who has the backing of many anti-Sena players in Maharashtra,shares excellent relations with MNS chief Raj Thackeray and is reportedly keeping the option of switching sides open. Sena rivals may also pitch him as an Independent in 2014 against the official party candidate.
This suits their agenda of dividing the Sena and weakening the grand alliance that the BJP is attempting to put together in Maharashtra.
The fact after all remains that while Uddhav,despite Joshis complaints,has proven with this incident that he retains command over the party,he cant be happy about this public falling out with a senior leader in a crucial election year.
Shubhangi is a senior editor based in Mumbai