No sooner has Bal Thackeray left, the air is thick with questions. First, who is the true inheritor of his legacy? The patriarch had decided the matter in his videotaped speech at the Dasera rally by naming Uddhav and grandson, Aditya, unambiguously. In fact, he had made up his mind long ago, precipitating Raj’s exit. Uddhav’s personality may be as removed from his father’s as Raj’s is seen to be close but a father’s will has prevailed.
In any comparison, the odds favour Raj because of the common perception that he has the quintessential aggression the party is defined by and is currently starved of. But Raj shares little with his uncle apart from looks, mannerisms, fierce ambition and an intolerance for any opinion other than his own. He does not have the courage of a Bal Thackeray, or his conviction.
The senior feared no one, took everyone on, and spoke straight from his heart. You could disagree with him, tire of him but you could not fault his genuineness of feeling. Raj takes up issues after weighing the pros and cons and drops them mid-way.
When he speaks, he summons the power of oratory but gives you the uncomfortable feeling that he is not too convinced himself about what he is saying. Bal Thackeray roared from his gut. Raj does that with his vocal cords.
Uddhav does not have his father’s charisma but he is a man of organisation and works well in his understated way. Henceforth, he will have a free rein of the party though his job will be trying in the absence of the singlemost binding force. There is talk he could reinvent the party, a prospect even his otherwise unyielding father was open to.
Second, will they unite? The desire to see Uddhav and Raj together ranks highest on many a Shiv Sainik’s wishlist. It may now figure on the BJP’s to-do list as well, anxious as it is to stem any possible exodus from the Sena to the MNS in the wake of Thackeray’s departure. Psephology would advise both to bury the hatchet in their own larger interest. But human minds are not that simple to unravel and human nature not that easy to change. The layers of issues between the cousins cannot be wished away in a hurry.
Stories abound about what happened on Sunday but some contours are clear. Raj stepped down from the cortege after a while as he could not possibly be seen inside Sena Bhavan — where it was headed – after having left the party. He had sworn never to enter Shiv Sena bhavan when he left the party. Moreover, as Uddhav had personally ensured that all leaders and deputy leaders of the Sena were part of the procession to make them feel a part of the family, this party show may also have unsettled Raj a bit. As for why he preferred to go home instead of Matoshree for a rest, insiders point out that the person whom he would visit Matoshree was no longer there.
At Shivaji Park, the cousins talked peaceably. An eyewitness says Uddhav prodded him to stand up with him and also ushered him closer to the pyre. There is an occasional thaw but a thick wall of ice still remains to be cracked. As the potential melting influence is no more, it will need some determined action on either side to take this further. Some, however, suspect that even if they do patch up, the truce may not last long. The wounds are not quite festering but they are still open.