Uddhav Thackeray’s bid half-hearted, Raj unlikely to bite

by Mahesh Vijapurkar  Jan 31, 2013 12:40 IST

#HowThisWorks   #MNS   #Raj Thackeray   #Shiv Sena   #Uddhav Thackeray  

To say that Uddhav Thackeray, the new Shiv Sena chief has opened his arms to embrace Raj Thackeray, on the basis of the interview in yesterday’s Saamana, the former’s mouthpiece would be an exaggeration. The very idea of the two getting together in the interest of the Marathi Manoos they claim to represent is also implausible.

This is so, notwithstanding headlines about a ‘hint’ for a ‘tie-up’ etc which took up time on TV yesterday and space in newspapers this morning. The reasons for its improbability is concealed in the chemistry between the two cousins, their relationship fractured by enormous sense of their selves, and the political arithmetic that comes into play at the time of elections, especially, and including seat-sharing.

The interview itself was guarded. The intent of unifying did not come out strongly enough to enthuse anything beyond a ‘no comment’ from a person he was supposedly reaching out to. That was also the wish of Bal Thackeray, but since his demise, the familial bonds have weakened to the point of being non-existent. It is not about family jewels but supremacy in the party.

Will they bury the hatchet? AFP

Will they bury the hatchet? AFP

It hardly has anything to do with two political parties but everything with two individuals. Their personal relationship is so soured that a political arrangement would have to overcome the bitterness between them. Uddhav should scarcely be expected to share the spoils of succession with Raj who is not the one to play second fiddle to the new Sena Pramukh. The reason Raj quit was refusal to have any truck with Bal Thackeray’s successor.

If a unified entity were to be compared to a food chain – which politics really is, power to wield and wealth to be earned – a tiger and a lion cannot share it; they belong to two different ecosystems which are alike but also different, far removed from each other. Given their sense of personal self-worth, the merger of the two parties gets easily discounted. Even a 50:50 partnership would be troublesome.

Even in the so-called gesture via the interview, Uddhav was anxious to pin the responsibility of frittering away the Marathi votes in the 2009 elections on his cousin, thus keeping the issue to only a political dimension. He refused to even invite Raj over but said, “Why ask me this? Have two of us together and ask” about the future. The ‘you’ was the interviewer, Sanjay Raut.

The pressure from the rank and file as well as the Shiv Sena-favouring voters seems to have triggered the interview, making it appear that he was not averse to an arrangement with the MNS but it was more in the nature of keeping a balloon afloat. Though the interviewer time and again spoke of MNS and Raj by name, Uddhav did not even once mention them. It seemed a formality to convey to the public that he was doing his bit.

It is quite likely, however, that with his father out of the scene, Uddhav Thackeray maybe perceiving a difficult future, the task of doing battle with other political enemies, the Congress and the Nationalist Congress Party entirely on his own, enormous, even risky. There is just a chance that he hoped to strengthen his hands within the party by being able to claim that he did what he could but Raj Thackeray did not respond.

The one logic that buttresses the need for an electoral seat adjustment with MNS is the results of the 2009 elections. Thanks to the MNS, BJP which is a long associate of the Sena lost eight Assembly seats with margins of less than 5,000 votes, seven with margins of under 10,000. Shiv Sena lost nine and 13 seats respectively with margins of 5,000 and 10,000 votes. In a post-Bal Thackeray phase, its rerun is scary.

That should take us to a probability of only seat-sharing between the two political parties for the 2014 elections to the Maharashtra Assembly which would be preceded by the Lok Sabha polls. The wins in the national law-making body are of less importance to the two as much as the vote shares each acquire in the large constituencies to decide the claims for their Assembly segments, if they were to opt for seat adjustments for the Assembly.

MNS had hit the Sena precisely in the latter’s strongholds to acquire their 13 MLAs last time. These would not be easily yielded, for a seat won is considered a party’s domain, perpetually. Also, the Sena has to set aside some for Ramdas Athavale’s Republican Party of India, reducing the numbers Sena can claim. Since they allied decades ago the Sena gets 171 seats and BJP 117 for contest.

Raj Thackeray’s entry does convert it into a foursome and the negotiations can get bogged down, raising avoidable tensions just before the elections. Further, the animosity between the two cousins worsened when Uddhav did not keep his word with regard to mayorship of Nashik. Like an observer said, the two “are not Ganga-Jamuna to blend easily; they are immiscible oil and water”, dangerous to both and better apart.

Just to meet the compulsions of Uddhav Thackeray, Raj Thackeray is unlikely to fulfil the hopes of his uncle.