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CIMA Gallary

Clash of egos at Thackeray funeral Raj walk, a PR ‘masterstroke’

Mumbai, Nov. 18: Differences among relatives were at play in the hours preceding Bal Thackeray’s funeral that drew around 15 lakh people, a source close to the family said today.

“There was tension in the family — a clash of egos between Jaidev, Uddhav and Raj,” said the source who was inside the Thackeray house, Matoshree, last night and this morning. The source was referring to the Shiv Sena founder’s second and third sons and nephew, respectively.

While Jaidev as well as Uddhav wanted to light their father’s funeral pyre, the family insider said, Thackeray’s immediate family was not keen on Raj taking an active role in the funeral procession.

Jaidev, who neither lives in Matoshree nor holds a post in the Sena, was upset on being informed that Uddhav, the youngest son and the Shiv Sena executive president, would lit the pyre. Thackeray’s first son Bindumadhav is no more. However, Jaidev and Uddhav later in the day buried their differences. The brothers also stopped estranged cousin Raj from lending a shoulder to carry his uncle’s cortege.

“Raj was discouraged from carrying Balasaheb’s body outside the house – there was a feeling among a section of Shiv Sena leaders it will be very damaging, visually, for Uddhav. They said pictures of Raj carrying Balasaheb’s body on his shoulder with Uddhav, Jaidev and Aditya (Uddhav’s son) might be seen as an admission on Uddhav’s part that Raj was an equal stakeholder in Saheb’s political legacy,” said the source.

“Visual impact” is a particularly touchy subject in the family, especially since Raj has a striking resemblance with his uncle and many Sainiks consider him the rightful heir of Thackeray’s political legacy. Through is aggressive position on sensitive issues, Raj has only added to that perception.

“Raj is younger to Uddhav by about 10 years. When he was a child, he stayed mostly in Matoshree. Balasaheb would often make him sit on his lap while talking to his political associates, he taught him to fly kites and draw cartoons — they had a special bond,” said the family source. Raj’s room in Matoshree has been kept locked under Thackeray’s instructions.

Raj’s growing presence at Matoshree when Thackeray’s health deteriorated had deepened the schism, the source said. Raj was not on the truck that carried his uncle’s body – an absence that stood out because of the presence of almost the entire Thackeray clan, including Raj’s wife Sharmila, Uddhav’s wife Rashmi and Jaidev’s former wife Smita.

Raj walked the 10-km stretch between Matoshree and Shiv Sena Bhawan in Dadar – which is being seen as masterstroke in public relations as he drew more attention that the multiple figures in the truck.

Just before the cortege entered the Shiv Sena headquarters, he left the procession and went home. Raj had pledged “not to step into Sena Bhavan” after forming the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena in 2006.

Raj reached Shivaji Park, the funeral site, just before the cortege entered the ground that is close to the MNS leader’s home. Cousins Raj and Uddhav then stood side by side, accepting condolences and intermittently talking to each other.