In India, in case a political party breaks or splits, there is always one person who is held responsible for it.
May it be Shivpal Yadav who was blamed for the troubles in Samajwadi Party in 2017, Sharad Pawar who spearheaded the split in Congress in the 90’s, or Sanjay Raut who is single-handedly blamed by many for the Shiv Sena chaos.
Raut, who has held the position of executive editor of the Shiv Sena mouth piece Saamana, even when Balasaheb Thackeray was the editor of the newspaper, has caused many a discomfort to Uddhav Thackeray in the last seven years; and yet managed to retain his position as a close aide of the Thackerays.
Let us dig a bit deeper and not limit ourselves only to the last two-and-a-half years.
Way back in 2014, after an editorial was published in Saamana, which had an anti-Gujarati sentiment on display, Aaditya Thackeray had to come out and distance the party with the editorial.
The newspaper which once reflected the thoughts of Balasaheb Thackeray, post his death became Raut’s Saamana.
Every reporter in Mumbai with a Sena beat would every morning read Saamana, and many TV journalists even positioned themselves on a regular basis outside the house of Sanjay Raut for a byte on his own editorial.
Till Balasaheb was alive there were rarely instances when the party distanced itself from the editorials. Balasaheb was a former newspaper cartoonist and a well-read politician aware about what to write and how to write.
Post his death, the newspaper became more of a Sanjay Raut fiefdom, where he writes, and most of it goes as he desires. Uddhav is a photographer but not a photo-journalist, and his son, Aaditya, holds an LLB degree but has never shown any interest in the working of the newspaper.
When Uddhav was the chief minister his wife Rashmi Thackeray, again a non-journalist, was the editor of the paper. This gave Sanjay Raut complete freedom to run the newspaper’s editorial the way he desired.
Since 2014, Saamana has had several headlines critical of Modi and Shah, even when the Shiv Sena led by Uddhav was in alliance with the BJP. Except for the initial years there’s hardly any evidence that Uddhav tried to rein in Sanjay Raut.
Instead when Uddhav Thackeray was the chief minister, he seemed to have enjoyed an interview with Sanjay Raut, where Raut said that UN was taking lessons from Uddhav over Covid handling.
The breakup of the Sena
Most of the leaders who abandoned Uddhav Thackeray and joined Shiv Sena led by chief minister Eknath Shinde in June 2022, blamed Sanjay Raut for their exit.
Raut was amongst those who kept on threatening the disgruntled MLAs. Many in the party felt that Raut’s constant attack on the MLAs during the rebellion acted as a catalyst for them abandoning Uddhav.
In the last week of June 2022, many would say that the more Raut speaks, the more MLAs disown Uddhav.
Nonetheless, Raut continued with his barbs — until he was arrested by the Enforcement Directorate for his alleged involvement in the Patra Chawl scam.
Once he was out he sounded sombre, but that was short-lived. His attacks restarted within a short span of time. He even made bizarre statements about Putin, Charles and Biden discussing about Uddhav Thackeray, leading many to jokingly comment that once Raut is out, his words will only benefit Shinde.
Raut's tiff with BJP and Shinde
Sanjay Raut has used unparliamentary language on live television against leaders from the BJP, but was never publicly reprimanded by his party chief for it.
Now, he has made some serious allegations against chief minister Eknath Shinde’s son, Shrikant Shinde, that the Kalyan MP is trying to get him eliminated.
It is through all such utterances that Raut has remained more in news than even Aaditya and Uddhav Thackeray.
Many in Mumbai earlier would take words of Saamana as the words of Balasaheb and that of the party, but off late this isn’t the case. There was also a news that in 2014 when BJP broke the alliance with Shiv Sena it was because of the writings in Saamana.
But can the blame be squarely put on Sanjay Raut for everything that Uddhav is facing?
A King is known by the advisors he surrounds himself with and also what to listen and act upon and what to leave aside.
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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