With the view growing that the Uddhav Thackeray-led Shiv Sena might have painted itself into a corner with its aggressive stand even as the rebels acquire numbers, some of his supporters are pointing fingers at the role of the NCP. Or, rather, at that of NCP supremo Sharad Pawar.
According to sources, Uddhav had made up his mind to resign soon after it became clear that the situation had slipped out of his hands. But Pawar prevailed upon him to put up a fight, thus squandering, what many leaders say, “a moral high ground”.
Soon as the news broke of the revolt within the Shiv Sena on June 20, and he had taken stock of how deep the blow was, Uddhav held a late-night meeting at his official residence, Varsha. The next day, he again called a meeting where all elected members were asked to be present. When the low attendance indicated the worst, Uddhav reportedly decided that the game was up.
This was the reason, sources said, that he very publicly removed his belongings from Varsha and moved the same into his personal residence Matoshree – accompanied by sons Aaditya and Tejas, and wife Rashmi. The distance between the two residences was covered like a grand farewell, with supporters hailing them and breaking down, and the family showing its gratitude for their backing.
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An insider said, the plan then was to make “a graceful exit”. That is why the announcement of the Facebook Live address too, on June 22 evening. “Uddhav wanted to announce the decision to quit after the address.”
However, the leader said, “Pawar asked him to hold on and not take any hasty decision. It was also impressed upon him that the Maha Vikas Aghadi would collectively fight the battle against the BJP.”
According to sources, even after this, Uddhav expressed his wish to resign as there was no let-up in the MLAs turning sides and joining the Eknatth Shinde-led faction in Guwahati.
While opinion is divided, a section believes Uddhav might have made a bad situation worse by staying up, giving the impression of being led by the NCP. One of the main charges the rebels have against the Sena leadership is that it has let the NCP dictate terms in the MVA coalition, and the latest episode confirms this, for many.
A senior Uddhav loyalist said, “Personally, he should have resigned immediately, as he had planned. It would have not only ensured a graceful exit but also earned a lot of goodwill from the people.”
Instead, he finds himself caught in an ugly spat, the loyalist said. “It looks like he is fighting desperately to retain power, even after losing the confidence of a majority of the elected members… A resignation would have also given the party a morale booster to prepare for a longer fight, under the leadership of son and minister Aaditya Thackeray.”
Another top leader pointed out that the sequence of events also does not augur well for Uddhav when compared to his father. “When Bal Thackeray was at the helm, power was not his concern. What mattered was what was good for the organisation. Bal Thackeray always had the last word.”
A resignation “within 48 hours” could have been used by Uddhav to show himself capable of the same resolve. “It would have exposed both the rebel Shinde Sena as well as the BJP who is supporting the rebels.”
Defending the NCP’s calculations, a senior party leader said, “Any haste in tendering a resignation was not advisable as we were still hoping there would be reconciliation with the rebels… (Moreover) It is a three-party coalition. So when it comes to giving up the government in a state like Maharashtra, a lot of issues, both administrative and political, have to be considered and settled.”
The Congress believes the mess is entirely of Uddhav’s making, both failing to see the brewing rebellion and managing it later. “The first reaction from Uddhav was ‘whoever wants to leave, let them go’. Instead of taking measures to hold on to the MLAs who had not left, they adopted an aggressive tone, upsetting many,” a party leader said, while adding that it was the Sena’s internal matter to resolve.
Some old-timers in the Sena are also not too happy about the tone adopted by rabble-rouser MP Sanjay Raut, the chief spokesperson for the party outside the family. Even as Aaditya rallies the troops, Raut’s statements, particularly referring to the MLAs in Guwahati as “corpses” and calling them “buffaloes to be sacrificed at Kamakhya temple”, have not won the Sena any friends.
A party leader said: “Power comes and goes. Fight it out, don’t issue death threats.”
The controversy sparked by Raut’s statement is also reflective, for some, of the waning control of the Thackerays over the Sena, leading up to the current crisis.
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