Mumbai, Dec. 18: Raj Thackeray can finally play the Sarkar he has always idolised and emulated ' not just in his demeanour, his oratory and in political cartooning, but also as supreme leader.
After repeated differences with cousin Uddhav, Balasaheb Thackeray’s son, over the direction ' or the lack of it ' of the Shiv Sena, Raj quit, announcing that he would form a new political party. He made it clear that he did not wish to split the 39-year-old Sena founded by his uncle Balasaheb, but would carve out a new party.
“I would announce the party’s name, ideology and programmes after I complete a tour of Maharashtra next year,” he said in Marathi at a news conference on the terrace of Shivaji Park Gymkhana in central Mumbai.
The significance of a Thackeray clan member launching a new political outfit to promote Maharashtrian aspirations in the middle-class Sena citadel of Dadar, a few metres away from Sena headquarters, was not lost on Raj whose eyes filled with tears and voice quivered while making the announcement.
His emotional speech was briefly buried in the sound of drums his 1,000-and-odd supporters beat on outside the gymkhana.
Even while he quit, he paid obeisance to his mentor. “Balasaheb majhe daivat hote, tey majhe daivat ahet, and tey majhe daivat rahnar (Balasaheb was my deity, he is still my deity and he will always remain so).”
Raj’s announcement sparked anti-Sena protests from his supporters in Aurangabad, and a skirmish between his and Uddhav’s followers in Goregaon in the western suburbs.
Later, speaking to reporters, Uddhav described his cousin’s decision as “sad” and one based on “misunderstandings”. He said his father, too, was saddened by the decision.
Widely regarded as the political heir to Balasaheb, Raj explained his reasons for quitting. He read out his November 25 letter to his uncle, urging the Sena chief to make Uddhav accountable for the crushing Sena defeat in the Malwan Assembly bypoll on November 19 and restructure the party.
“It won’t be wrong to say your time (to do the two things) starts now,” Raj told his uncle in the letter, which he wrote two days before his formal resignation. He did not receive a reply.
Raj admitted that the Sena chief did phone him thrice after he declared his rebellion, but he did not answer them. “What could I have told him' He is aware of everything that has happened in the last 10 years.”
After spurning his uncle’s invitations, Raj met the Sena chief last Thursday, but only to stick to his stand, and bid goodbye to the party. “I explained to him that if my way of thinking and Uddhav’s way of thinking are different, it is better not to work together. The resulting confusion percolates down to the grassroots workers and leads to chaos.”
Raj’s exit makes him the fourth Sena leader to quit the party since Chhagan Bhujbal staged his rebellion and joined the Sharad Pawar-led Congress in 1993, and the third in 2005 after Rajya Sabha MP Sanjay Nirupam and Narayan Rane.