The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Sena sons settle strife

Mumbai, Aug. 17: The pep talk went on for two hours. When it ended, the cubs emerged, not exactly purring but not growling either.

It meant that the ageing tiger had averted a power struggle in his domain.

Seventy-nine-year-old Bal Thackeray today succeeded in calming down his political prot'g's ' son Uddhav and nephew Raj ' and persuaded them to work together for the rebellion-rocked Shiv Sena. The drama that started with an editorial in party mouthpiece Saamna three days ago ended with Thackeray assuring Raj he would play an equal role in official party appointments as well as electoral strategies.

Uddhav, who is the party’s executive president, has been controlling appointments of office-bearers as well as allotment of tickets.

Still reeling from the revolt of Narayan Rane, who joined the Congress last month, hundreds of Sena workers let out a collective sigh of relief when Uddhav and Raj emerged together from Matoshree, Thackeray’s Bandra residence.

“The result of the meeting will be seen through our actions in the future,” a composed Raj told the waiting reporters. “We will work together in the interest of the party.”

Uddhav, however, remained silent.

Former Speaker Manohar Joshi, who helped sort out the “differences”, said the cousins “have decided to work together and strengthen the party”.

Joshi had been trying to resolve the differences since the Saamna article by executive editor and Rajya Sabha MP Sanjay Raut sparked an outburst from Raj. A known Uddhav supporter, Raut had said Raj should have courted arrest instead of abandoning his tour last week to Rane’s stronghold, Sindhudurg.

Raj had cut short his Konkan tour of rain-affected areas after police officials advised that his visit to Sindhudurg could trigger a law-and-order crisis. Angry at their leader’s expulsion from the party, Rane supporters had gathered in large numbers for a possible violent clash with Sena workers accompanying Raj. The rival factions have clashed once before in Mumbai.

Today’s development is being seen as a tactical victory for Raj who, despite being the most popular Sena leader after his uncle, saw his cousin anointed working president in 2002.

In 2003, Uddhav launched the controversial “Mee Mumbaikar” campaign, which confused the Sena cadre. The theme ' anybody who lives and loves Mumbai is a Mumbaikar ' contradicted the party’s sons-of-the-soil ethic, which had helped it expand its primary vote base.

While Uddhav’s campaign confused the grassroots, Raj reiterated the “anti-outsider” theme and demanded that Maharashtrians be given preference while recruiting for the railways.

Supporters of Raj even beat up students from Bihar who arrived in Mumbai to sit for the railway recruitment exams.

The party paid a price for this confusion and suffered massive electoral defeats in both the Lok Sabha and Assembly elections last year.

Uddhav had devised the strategy for the polls and also allotted tickets. More than 11 candidates suggested by Raj were ignored for the state elections. Irked that their leader was being sidelined, supporters of Raj campaigned against official Sena candidates in some constituencies.

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