The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Thackeray hands Sena reins to son

Mahabaleshwar, Jan. 30 (PTI): Shiv Sena chief Bal Thackeray today virtually anointed his son Uddhav his successor by creating a new post of executive president and handing him the responsibility of running the party.

Thackeray, who retained the post of chief of the 37-year-old organisation, justified Uddhav’s elevation saying it was based on popular demand and common consensus.

“I have been entrusted with a special responsibility and will try to do justice to my job,” Uddhav told reporters during the two-day party conclave held here to elect a team of 14 leaders and 16 deputy leaders in keeping with the party’s two-tier set-up.

The election also brings the succession war in the party between Thackeray’s charismatic nephew Raj and Uddhav near close. The elevation of Uddhav is being viewed by many in political circles as a strong indication that he would step into his fath_er’s shoes, despite Thackeray’s past claims that the issue of his successor was being kept open.

To a question on the cold war between him and Raj, Uddhav said it was false and baseless. “In fact, it was Raj who proposed my name,” he said.

Uddhav had been in the limelight recently for ensuring the party’s success in the civic elections single-handed. He is spearheading the party’s agitation against the Democratic Front government in the state, which has evoked a good response.

“I do not want to force either Raj or Uddhav on the party. I agreed to Uddhav’s election only after being assured that it was based on popular choice by the party workers,” Thackeray told reporters, rebutting criticism levied against the Sena for having a dictatorial set-up.

Flaying the Congress for projecting itself as the only party upholding the democratic tradition, Thackeray said the Congress lacked a leader of calibre to guide it. Ridiculing the portrayal of Sonia Gandhi as “desh ki bahu”, he said the claims were a mere facade.

Speaking later, Sena spokesperson Subash Desai ascribed the choice of Uddhav to Thackeray’s inability to physically tour the state and interact with party workers. He claimed Uddhav’s election was based on a very strong demand by the party workers.

“Thackeray was not present during the election nor did he suggest Uddhav’s name,” Desai said.

He, however, refused to dub the election as coronation of a new heir.

According to Desai, Raj continued to shoulder the responsibilities of a Sena leader and contribute significantly to the party.

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