The timing of Shiv Sena president Uddhav Thackeray's "peace offering" to estranged cousin Raj Thackeray is being viewed with interest. Shiv Sainiks say that the offer comes at a time when a mass exodus of Sena workers is taking place to parties such as the Nationalist Congress Party, outfits that are considered to have better prospects than the Sena, which is now without Bal Thackeray.
Last week, Uddhav Thackeray, in his party's mouthpiece Saamna extended an olive branch to Raj, the leader of the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena, sparking off rumours of a possible alliance between the two cousins and the emergence of a consolidated front ahead of the 2014 Assembly elections.
A day after the announcement was made, Uddhav Thackeray blasted the Congress-NCP in Saamna for poaching on Sena workers post Balasaheb Thackeray's death in November.
In January this year, the Nashik district president of the Sena, Sunil Bagul joined the NCP with one hundred of his supporters and three senior functionaries. Bagul, who controlled Nashik for 33 years, pointed out that many Sainiks were unhappy and were expected to join the NCP in large numbers. Former Sena MLC Parshuram Uparkar too was in touch with the NCP.Image 2nd
Senior NCP leaders confirmed that veteran Sena leaders like former Home Minister Gajanan Kirtikar and Opposition leader Ramdas Kadam were keen to join them. "They were almost on the verge of joining the NCP, but unfortunately we did not have anything to offer to both of them at this point," said a top NCP functionary on the condition of anonymity.
"Post the death of Balasaheb Thackeray, the Shiv Sena is on the decline. Many senior leaders are feeling directionless. Pawarsaheb is regarded as the only one after Balasaheb with a sound political vision.
The NCP is growing in leaps and bounds and every day hundreds of Sainiks across Maharashtra are shifting their allegiance to the NCP. The Sena has realised this and is obviously alarmed. This so called announcement of a truce between the cousins is aimed at creating confusion among the Sena cadre," says NCP spokesperson Dinkar Tawde.