Little hope for Thackeray reunion

Semi Column

One phone call from Shiv Sena chief Bal Thackeray to his estranged nephew Raj, it appeared, had set the stage for the Thackeray clan to come back together. Raj took no time to rush back to Mumbai from Alibaug to be by the side of his cousin Uddhav, while he underwent a surgical procedure after a heart attack. Raj also drove Uddhav home from the hospital.

Four months on, Thackeray can only feel a partial sense of satisfaction when he himself is critically ill. The poignant atmosphere in the Thackeray household in the wake of the failing health of the patriarch seems to have brought about an emotional reunion of sorts between the cousins. There seems no trace left of the bitterness of the past. Raj has since visited his uncle several times. However, Uddhav and Raj are unable to make any headway and come up with an arrangement to work together in a single, united party.

The first and the foremost issue is who will lead a unified party. Uddhav was installed as his successor by Thackeray. As the executive president, he has successfully led the party to victory in the crucial civic elections in Mumbai and Thane. Why would he give up his prime position in the Sena? Raj, on the other hand, launched the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena only because he was not prepared to play second-fiddle to Uddhav. His electoral performance has been impressive. Besides, he remains a big draw among women and youth. Why would he wind up his party to work under Uddhav?

As it is, no matter how much they may wish otherwise, it may be difficult for the two Sena formations to even agree to a seat-adjustment in the assembly polls. The Shiv Sena contests 171 of the 288 assembly seats and the BJP 117 under a seat-sharing arrangement. The Sena is obliged to allot seats from its own quota to the RPI (Ramdas Athawale). The MNS bagged 13 assembly seats and came second in 24 constituencies in the last election. If the Sena parts with a substantial number of seats to accommodate the MNS, say 50, its own share would slide below that of the BJP and further erode its position in the alliance.

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