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In ‘naïve Balasaheb’ remark, Uddhav’s attempt to break free from father’s shadow

Shiv Sena leaders say that they see in Thackeray’s remarks a confidence marked by a realisation that he can fall back on his own experience of dealing with the BJP.

Written by Vishwas Waghmode | Mumbai |
Updated: May 31, 2022 11:58:09 am
Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray during the launch of National Common Mobility Card (NCMC), in Mumbai. (PTI, file)

Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray’s recent remarks that he is not “naïve” like his father Balasaheb Thackeray and that he can see through the BJP’s “agenda” is being seen as an attempt by the Shiv Sena chief to come out of the towering shadow of his father.

Speaking at a session organised by Loksatta, the Marathi daily of The Indian Express Group, in Mumbai on May 1, Thackeray had said, “Tase Balasaheb bhole hote, pan mi nahi (That way, Balasaheb was naïve. But I am not like that). I will not allow the BJP to succeed in its agenda. I have my eyes and ears on each of their actions and strategies,” Thackeray had said.

Shiv Sena leaders say that they see in Thackeray’s remarks a confidence marked by a realisation that he can fall back on his own experience of dealing with the BJP – both as an alliance partner and later as a rival party.

“Uddhav ji is a tough negotiator. He has witnessed the Sena-BJP alliance for the last three decades and has also seen a changed BJP from 2014 onwards, when the party broke its alliance with the Sena ahead of the Assembly elections that year. Uddhav ji has been establishing his own footprint,” said a Sena functionary.

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The Sena leaders, however, pointed out that this is not the first time that Thackeray has made such a statement — during the 2017 Mumbai civic polls, he had said that the Sena wasted 25 of its years in alliance with the BJP.

In 2019, Thackeray broke the Sena’s alliance with the BJP – one which his father had sealed in 1989 – claiming that the BJP was not honouring its promise of sharing the Chief Minister’s post for two-and-half years. He then forged an alliance with the Congress and NCP, forming the Maha Vikas Aghadi government with a Thackeray in the CM’s chair for the first time ever.

In many ways, this marked a decisive turn for the Sena from its Balasaheb days, with party leaders claiming Thackeray was prescient enough to recognise that the BJP’s win in the 2014 elections had changed its equations with the Sena.

“With the BJP hell-bent on finishing off its allies, Uddhav saheb successfully navigated the Sena through some very difficult times. The MVA government has lasted for two and a half years and is set to comfortably complete its term. It shows Thackeray’s political acumen is second to none. The new Shiv Sena is here to stay,” said the Sena leader.

Another Sena leader said Thackeray has displayed “a new, flexible kind of politics”. “Uddhav’s remarks over the last few years indicate that he is no longer duty-bound to follow his father’s politics. He has displayed that you cannot have a rigid approach but will need a high level of political and ideological flexibility to take on the BJP,” the leader said.

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