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Out of power, a lesson for ‘Sarkar’

Mumbai, July 3: Shorn of power and the remote control, the Sarkar is discovering that his writ does not run always.

The post-poll upheaval in the BJP has spread to the Shiv Sena with Bal Thackeray expelling Narayan Rane, a former chief minister and once a right hand of the ailing Mumbai strongman, from the party.

However, unlike in the BJP where an ideological battle is unfolding, the spark that stoked the Sena rebellion is an all too familiar fixture in Indian politics: dynasty.

Soon after sacking Rane as Opposition leader, Thackeray indicated that his son Uddhav would run the party. The rise of Uddhav, the executive president of the Sena, is being seen as the principal reason behind Rane’s revolt. “The love for son has scored over everything else,” Rane said today.

Rane claimed that he has the support of 22 of the 63 Sena MLAs in Maharashtra, raising the spectre of a split similar to the one in 1991 when Chhagan Bhujbal walked out.

The Sena has been in turmoil ever since it lost the Lok Sabha and Assembly polls and rumours were rife that Rane could join Sharad Pawar’s NCP.

Rane, an income-tax clerk who was chief minister in 1999, is known for his street- smart political skills, much of it honed under Thackeray’s tutelage.

The Sena leadership almost tasted its own medicine today as the mood turned ugly when a trade union leader made disparaging remarks about Rane. Some people roughed up the union leader and stoned his car but Rane denied they were his supporters.

Rane, however, did not desist from renewing corruption charges against Uddhav and his aides, saying party posts are on sale. Thackeray senior denied the charge.

A recent event served to confirm that all’s not well between Thackeray and his one-time loyalist. When a special screening of Sarkar, in which Amitabh Bachchan plays an extra-constitutional authority with some resemblance to the Sena patriarch, was arranged for Thackeray, Rane did not turn up.

Such a show of defiance would have been unthinkable a few years ago when Thackeray had famously declared that he holds the remote control to the Maharashtra government.

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