Four days after the Maharashtra Assembly election results were announced, Shiv Sena executive president Uddhav Thackeray said his party had not suffered defeat. It won 44 seats.
Addressing a press conference on Monday, Mr. Thackeray, however, admitted that the party did not do as well as expected and the result was a surprise to everyone.
He said there was no celebration in the Congress camp either and there was silence all round.
Mr. Thackeray said the Sena did not fight the elections for the Chief Minister’s post and that it fought for the people.
“I have not committed any crime.” There was no question of introspection, as there was no defeat, he said.
Meanwhile, at a meeting of the newly elected Sena MLAs, Subhash Desai was elected leader of the group. Mr. Thackeray said there was no tussle with the ally, the Bharatiya Janata Party, on the issue of Leader of the Opposition and that both parties would reach an amicable solution. He also pointed out that the Sena was working for the farmers and backward sections always and not only at the time of the elections.
Questioned about his leadership, Mr. Thackeray said those who were working with him were happy and not criticising his qualities as a leader. “I did not fight this election for personal gains. There were many things we wanted to do for the people and now I feel bad we cannot do that. The saffron flag is down, that is my only grief.”
Last week, an editorial in the party’s mouthpiece, Saamna, slammed the “Marathi Manoos” for betraying the Sena. However, on Monday, Mr. Thackeray said the editorial only reflected the inner turmoil of the Sena chief (Bal Thackeray). “I don’t think the Sena has abandoned the Marathi Manoos.”
Asked whether the party would make internal changes, Mr. Thackeray said the organisation was always changing and if necessary, it would continue to do so. Hindutva was still a leading factor and the party would use it whenever necessary. Hindutva was not Marathi or non-Marathi. For instance, in Sangli the party won on the Hindutva stand.
Defending ticket distribution, the executive president said it was his responsibility to get all his candidates elected and not only Leader of the Opposition Ramdas Kadam, who lost the election.
Mr. Thackeray also denied that the Sena suffered in Marathwada due to rebellion. To questions on the impact of the Raj Thackeray-led Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS), he said: “I was right, a vote for the MNS was a vote for the Congress. The Marathi votes were split.” The fight between the cousins was political, not a household quarrel, he pointed out.
He said that as executive president, he should take responsibility for the Sena’s performance. Marathi was an issue in urban areas; in rural parts, there were other dominant issues.
To questions on the coterie around him and his personal assistant Milind Narvekar, Mr. Thackeray said he was still the executive president with his father above him and decisions were taken by him, not by Mr. Narvekar.