A wave of resentment is brewing within the Shiv Sena against senior party leader and former chief minister Manohar Joshi for his public criticism of the party chief Uddhav Thackeray.
Speaking at a Navratri function in Dadar on Friday, Joshi, 75, accused Uddhav of not being aggressive. He also blamed him for the organisation’s failure to erect a memorial for Bal Thackeray at Shivaji Park.
It is learnt that Uddhav summoned Joshi to ‘Matoshree’ on Saturday for an explanation. “Joshi was with Uddhav for 15 minutes and offered an abject apology for the observations he had made on Friday,” a source at Matoshree told dna. “For now, the party is unlikely to expel Joshi. But, if the situation demands, he may be expelled despite his seniority.”
Uddhav was unavailable for comment. But, sources close to him alleged that Joshi was fronting for Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) chief Raj Thackeray with whom he has close business interests in the realty sector. A Sena MP told dna: “Joshi is speaking on Raj’s behalf. He wants to create trouble before the polls.’’
Another Sena MP said: “Joshi is ungrateful. He came to Mumbai with hardly any money. Today, he is one of the richest politicians in the country because of his association with the Sena. The party made him corporator, mayor, MLA, chief minister, Union minister and so on. By attacking Uddhav, he has only demonstrated his true character.’’
Indications are that Uddhav may call for a meeting of senior leaders at an appropriate time and pass a resolution expelling Joshi from the party. Joshi has no mass base and it is felt that his expulsion will hardly have any impact on the organisation. Joshi became angry when he realised that he will not be given a party’s ticket to contest the Lok Sabha elections from Mumbai south-central constituency which he had represented earlier. The party is, instead, toying with the idea of fielding corporator Rahul Shewale, 40, from this seat even though he is from Trombay. Joshi has stated that he is willing to shift to Thane or Kalyan. However, Uddhav has decided not to give him a ticket at all. Many in the party feel that Joshi, given his age, should not have staked his claim for a ticket in the first place.
Uddhav’s anger with Joshi dates back to the party Mahabaleshwar conclave in 2003 during which a resolution was passed to anoint him (Uddhav) Bal Thackeray’s successor. Even though the resolution was passed unanimously, it is learnt that Joshi had told his reservation (prior to the adoption of the resolution) about Uddhav being made the successor.
Joshi is credited with the view that Uddhav lacked leadership qualities. Ironically, the resolution was moved by Raj Thackeray. While all other members of the second-rung of the party approved the resolution, Joshi was the only one with a different opinion. Ever since then, Uddhav had nurtured a grievance against Joshi. Uddhav’s animus against Raj deepened when Joshi and his son, Unmesh, became partners with Raj in realty business. The Joshis and Raj had successfully jointly bid for Kohinoor Mill in Dadar.
When questioned about this, Joshi is reported to have bluntly told Uddhav that he should not mix business with politics. Uddhav became more suspicious of Joshi when the Sena lost to the MNS in the last assembly elections in Dadar, which was a Sena bastion. The loss of face for the Sena was enormous. Uddhav suspected that Joshi’s supporters tacitly supported the MNS. Uddhav was waiting for an opportunity to cut Joshi to size. He has done that now by deciding not to field him in the coming elections. The NCP is planning to woo Joshi even though he has said he has no plans to quit the Sena. Joshi enjoys a good rapport with NCP chief Sharad Pawar.
Might skip Dussehra rally
The anger within the Shiv Sena is so enormous that the police fear that Manohar Joshi might even be physically attacked. In fact, there are indications that Joshi may not attend the party’s annual Dussehra rally on Sunday at Shivaji Park which will be addressed by Uddhav. Special police bandobast will be provided at Joshi’s house which is a stone’s throw away from Shivaji Park maidan. Joshi was unavailable for comment.