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Thackeray will deepens family rifts

Mumbai, Dec. 17: Bal Thackeray’s family is allegedly fighting again — not over his political legacy this time but over his property.

Rather than a direct battle between his son Uddhav and estranged nephew Raj, it’s more a fight between his three daughters-in-law. The key bone of contention is the four-storey family mansion, Matoshree, where the late Shiv Sena chief’s will was read out by his lawyers on Sunday evening.

“Some family members fought openly over the will and contested its contents,” said a family source who claimed to have been present at the reading.

The house in suburban Bandra East’s Kalanagar area, which adjoins Mumbai’s new-age business district Bandra-Kurla Complex, is prime property. A square foot of residential property costs more than Rs 25,000 in the locality.

The nearly 10,000sqft bungalow was one of many owned by Bal Thackeray, who came from a middle-class Maharashtrian family of frugal means but immense socio-political clout.

Matoshree’s ground floor has so far housed the family office for the use of the Sena leadership and Balasaheb.

The first floor was occupied for long by Smita, wife of Thackeray’s estranged son Jaidev, who continued to live in Matoshree long after her separation from her husband.

Smita, who wielded immense political clout because of her closeness to Bal Thackeray, was said to be almost the de facto chief minister during Sena-BJP rule.

After her divorce from Jaidev, she had to move out of Matoshree because of gossip about her closeness to Thackeray Sr and her intense strife with Uddhav and his wife Rashmi for political power and party position.

“But under Balasaheb’s instructions, the first-floor apartment was locked and kept for her occasional use even after Uddhav forced her to leave Matoshree,” the family source said.

On Sunday, through his will, Balasaheb legally gifted the apartment to his favourite daughter-in-law. “Under the will, the ground floor would remain an office where Sena leaders can carry out party work and meetings. Smita will get the 2,000sqft first floor,” the source said.

The second floor, where Balasaheb and his wife lived, has been willed to Madhavi, wife of Bal Thackeray’s eldest son Bindumadhav who died mysteriously in a car crash. The third floor, where Uddhav and Rashmi live with their two sons, has been willed to them, the family source said.

“The will has created tension in the family. Rashmi doesn’t want Smita and Madhavi in Matoshree; and neither Smita nor Madhavi is willing to give up her share,” the source said.

“Rashmi sees Smita as a potential threat to her husband’s authority within the Sena. Smita, on her part, has also laid claim to the ground-floor office, saying she once functioned from there.”

Some Sena leaders said the kitchen conflict was actually a proxy war between Uddhav and Raj. “Raj has no interest in Balasaheb’s property — he has enough of his own. But in the family tussle, he has sided with Smita and Madhavi,” a leader said. Uddhav’s position is said to have become difficult in the war of the three ladies as he is one of the will’s executors. “He is keen to remove at least Smita from Matoshree. He does not like her; nor does he trust her political ambitions,” a Sena leader said.

Uddhav and Smita allegedly had an exchange after the will was read out, with each threatening legal action against the other before the lawyers cautioned against making the wrangling a public affair.