Being born and brought up in Girgaon Mumbai, my childhood has gone in the lap of Shiv Sena veteran leader Pramod Navalkar, Nilkhanth Khadilkar and many other Shiv Sena leaders. Balasaheb was my most favourite hero figure; he has encouraged me in my journey towards journalism. As a Mumbaikar, I always looked at him like one strong father figure. Unfortunately, there is a vacuum, Uddhav could not retain that ability. Shiv Sena’s office and Matoshri’s doors were open for people. Meeting Balasaheb was never difficult but Uddhav and his son became larger than life. There are some arrogant entities that are controlling these visits; I remember one dialogue of Balasaheb “Chai se kitly garam”. Meeting Thackeray is very difficult, maybe this is the reason they are distant in the hearts of the people too. Uddhav definitely needs someone in his office to bridge that gap.
Bal Thackeray was a self-made mass leader with vision and excellent leadership qualities whereas Uddhav is a leader parachuted as head of the party without much of mass appeal or leadership qualities. Above all that united Shiv Sena was the core pursuit of the party, those shakhas on every corner of Mumbai which are gone missing now were the powerhouses of the party. Once upon a time, Mumbai was a safe city and we girls used to be fearless because Dadas and Bhai’s of shakhas used to make sure about our safety. Those days there was no social media platform or IT cell circulations, only the roar of Balasaheb used to keep the city in control. Now everything has gone out of control.
Surprisingly, Aditya Thackeray, like a newcomer in politics has blocked many journalists like me on Twitter just because we pose him questions; a leader who cannot answer netizens boldly, going on a blocking spree is sitting in government just because of his father but not on the merits of his own. They want all praises and for that, they have battalions of people paid to do so.
These days Shiv Sena has a crab mentality. Their massive egos are hurt if anyone pinpoints their failures, no matter how justified the criticism is. They never praise anybody except themselves.
If we talk about principle, ideology, morality, truth and integrity, Uddhav Thackeray lacks all these qualities, but it was Balasaheb Thackeray, who had stood with all the above qualities till he survived. Balasaheb had the tremendous ability to command respect. Balasaheb never compromised with principles and values. But, in the present situation in Maharashtra, Uddhav Thackeray is a totally compromised personality for the sake of his own prejudice. Many grassroots level Shiv Sainiks are silenced. They have been forcefully muted; some of them are just sidelined brutally. This is the time where all these Sainiks would have played a crucial role. Uddhav Thackrey’s Shiv Sena is divided into groups; there is a lot of outside infiltration.
In the reign of Balasaheb, Bollywood and the mafia were totally under their control. There was a fear in Bollywood and in the mafias. But in the recent situation what are we observing in Mumbai? Uddhav Thackeray is not speaking a word against the Mafia and not even speaking a word against wrong activities. His attacks and voices are selective. I never imagined that Uddhav would ever be a tamed tiger of the political circus.
Balasaheb used to mock even BJP and its leaders while being in an alliance. Then the Chief Minister Manohar Joshi said in the BJP national executive meeting in Mumbai that BJP and Shiv Sena are like brothers, BJP is Ram and Shiv Sena is Lakshaman. Thackeray mocked his own CM in his mouthpiece Saamana writing “Thank god he didn’t compare us to the monkeys”. He had an impeccable sense of humour.
When BJP affiliated parties launched Swadeshi Jagran Manch (SJM) and held rallies on sensitizing people about ills of multinationals and foreign products, Thackeray observed “When these people shout slogan of Swadeshi Zindabad by raising their hands, you can see that they have foreign watches on their wrists”. He called out the hypocrisy of Swadeshi movement leaders.
He had his political agenda and ideological differences but went out of his way to nurture personal relations. For e.g. He supported the candidature of Sharad Pawar’s daughter, Supriya Sule, to Rajya Sabha even though his alliance partner BJP was against it. Balasaheb once criticized the proposal to have a 22-crore throne for Shirdi Sai Baba. He suggested the amount be used for charity instead. A Marathi newspaper suggested he look at his own silver throne before he comments on other extravagances. In response, Balsaheb sent his throne to the newspaper office as a “sacrifice”.
I have thousands of such memories to share, those days Shiv Sena was a well-knit network, mainly composed of tough local youngsters, soon spread out to every neighbourhood in Mumbai. He and his Shakha Pramukhs often arbitrated disputes, got people jobs and demanded that he be consulted on all kinds of matters, including the release of films he found controversial. He had immense control and influence on Mumbaikars and on the people of Maharashtra as a whole. I miss that old Shiv Sena which gave us a sense of belonging.
Uddhav Thackeray is humble and maintained his demure as CM but somewhere distanced from the people who actually loved him. But interestingly Raj Thackeray has the power of grasping a lot of attention at the time of rallies, but unluckily failed in terms of votes. Raj is almost where he started. Uddhav is now not only part of the Government, but holding a prime post as CM. But being part of the government is not enough to pour life into Shiv Sena. Somewhere the Shiv Sena is fading in Mumbai and Maharashtra. The need of the hour is to strengthen all shakhas, appoint new shakha pramukhs, kartyakarte, and give responsibilities to youngsters. Once again unite all its old guards and rejuvenate its core strength. Shiv Sena should definitely work on a makeover of the party or else it would be losing its existence in no time.