On Gudi Padwa (22 March), Raj Thackeray claimed to have exposed his cousin Uddhav Thackeray's aspiration of becoming Shiv Sena chief and also the chief minister even when Balasaheb Thackeray was alive.
Yet, he failed to speak anything new and came out as a politician waiting for his chance.
After a hiatus, he was at Shivaji Park speaking on various issues, including the change of government in Maharashtra last June.
He started his speech with what he had spoken in 2005 and claimed that he had predicted the downfall of Shiv Sena, and finally it has happened.
He also claimed that he felt hurt when the battle for the Shiv Sena symbol was going on.
According to him, no one except Balasaheb Thackeray can carry the symbol ‘Bow and Arrow’, which is Shiv dhanush (Shivaji Maharaj's reference).
But at no point did Raj Thackeray speak anything on how he plans to make his party (Maharashtra Navnirman Sena) win elections. Currently, his party has one MLA in the state assembly of 288 members. Samajwadi Party has two and both from the Mumbai Metropolitan Region.
In his speech, Raj Thackeray spoke about two things. He said that before leaving Shiv Sena, he had asked Uddhav Thackeray if he wants to be the chief of the party and chief minister of the state. To which, Uddhav Thackeray said yes.
"I told him, do what you want to do, but don't use me only as a publicity tool. Then I met Balasaheb Thackeray and told him everything. He called Uddhav but he had left the house by then. All this was done so that I leave the party," said Raj Thackeray, while explaining to his workers on how he was sidelined in Shiv Sena.
On Narayan Rane leaving Shiv Sena, Raj Thackeray claimed that he was not leaving the party.
"I called Balasaheb and he asked me to get Rane. I was taking Rane to Matoshree. While I was on my way, I got a call from Balasaheb and I could hear someone whispering to him on the call that don't get Rane home," said Raj Thackeray.
Both these incidents are from the past and are one sided. Balasaheb Thackeray is not around to corroborate them.
However, these claims by Raj Thackeray expose Uddhav Thackeray's dream of becoming a chief minister, and he is in no way an accidental chief minister.
Most part of Raj Thackeray's speech sounded repetitive. He narrated how after 2019 election results were out, Uddhav Thackeray said that he wanted the chief minister’s post for 2.5 years, claiming that Amit Shah had assured him that. "But when Narendra Modi and Shah spoke during election campaign that Devendra Fadnavis will be the next chief minister, why didn't Uddhav Thackeray object?"
This story has lost its prominence in the Maharashtra political sphere. That is because Shah had refuted these claims multiple times. Even Shiv Sena leaders loyal to Uddhav Thackeray don't use it for sympathy anymore.
Through this speech, Raj Thackeray wanted to project himself as a leader who isn't aligned to any political alliance and is independent. While doing so, he left many of his party workers confused.
For example, Raj Thackeray referred the entire scene of 39 MLAs and Eknath Shinde leaving the Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) to the Arabic tale 'Alibaba and 40'.
He didn't call the MLAs thieves stating that they left out of frustration, and they were annoyed with Uddhav Thackeray, who avoided meeting even MLAs during the Covid time.
Here one would assume that Raj Thackeray is sympathising with Shinde. But moments later, he started asking for fresh elections and started lecturing Shinde.
He attacked Shinde for holding rallies at the same place where Uddhav Thackeray holds his rallies, and asked him to instead focus on the problems of the state.
His criticism of Shinde was evident, but would leave a common party worker wonder which side his/her leader is on?
However, one thing was clear that Raj Thackeray was trying to make a space for himself as a Hindu leader.
Raj Thackeray was dressed like how his uncle and late Shiv Sena supremo Balasaheb Thackeray would be. He even began his speech with the same line that Balasaheb started his speeches with.
He spoke of two issues, one was of a Sangli housing society that wrote to him seeking help over a mosque coming up within their premises, and the other about an alleged encroachment coming up in the Arabian Sea near Mahim in Mumbai.
Last year, Raj Thackeray had launched attacks on mosque loudspeakers and wanted them to be removed.
He spoke about the issue and also warned the government that within a month if the alleged encroachment at Mahim was not cleared, he will get a Ganesha temple built at the same place and the government, the police and the civic department will be responsible for it.
By raking up these issues, Raj Thackeray is trying to get those voters in Mumbai who used to be with Shiv Sena, but because of the growing proximity of Uddhav Thackeray towards a specific vote bank, may want to have a Hindu leader.
Raj Thackeray failed to give an action plan or specify his ideology to the workers. He again asked for a majority from the voters, but failed to tell what wonders should one expect from his party if he comes to power.
His speech that spanned over 50 minutes didn't have a strong appeal for his party, yet was entertaining.
Varun Singh, is a Mumbai-based journalist and tracks politics and other important news from the western region of the country. Varun has spent close to 18 years in journalism.
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