"While he is not keeping good health, the situation is not as bad as it was made out to be"
In the wake of Shiv Sena supremo Bal Thackeray’s declining health, executive president of the party Uddhav Thackeray on Friday conferred with party MPs and legislators.
However, party leaders led by Mr. Uddhav Thackeray were quick to quash suggestions that the meeting had anything to with the health of the ailing Sena patriarch.
“Today’s [Friday’s] meeting was fixed 15 days back and had nothing to do with Balasaheb’s health as some reports seem to suggest,” Mr. Uddhav Thackeray told reporters outside the Sena Bhavan.
“This is a party meet before the upcoming winter session of the State Legislature in Nagpur, and we are merely trying to streamline issues that we would be raising in the House,” he said.
Responding to questions on Mr. Bal Thackeray’s health, Mr. Uddhav Thackeray said: “Everybody is worried about Balasaheb’s health…so is Raj [Thackeray] and myself. But while he is not keeping good health, the situation is not as bad as it was made out to be.”
Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) chief Raj Thackeray and senior Nationalist Congress Party leader Chhagan Bhujbal called on the Shiv Sena chief in quick succession on Thursday. The visit was Mr. Raj Thackeray’s fourth in less than four months.
The visit of Mr. Bhujbal, once a Shiv Sena stalwart, sparked rumours about something being seriously amiss.
“Mr. Bhujbal had called a few hours after MNS president Raj Thackeray’s visit to ‘Matoshree’,” said a senior Sena leader. However, Mr. Bhujbal could not speak to the Sena chief as the latter was asleep. “Mr. Bhujbal met Mr. Uddhav Thackeray. They had a half-hour discussion.”
Party insiders told The Hindu that at Friday’s meeting, Mr. Uddhav Thackeray discussed strategies the party planned to adopt as part of its preparations for the 2014 parliamentary and Assembly elections.
As part of its efforts to strengthen the party’s grass roots base and firm up the organisation at the district level, Mr. Uddhav Thackeray is scheduled to begin a Statewide tour from January.
The absence of Mr. Bal Thackeray at the Sena’s annual Dussehra rally last week at Shivaji Park, sent out a gloomy picture of the future of the largely monolithic party.
Political observers pointed out that there was lack of strong second-rung leadership in the party and it has a fragile political alliance with the Bharatiya Janata Party (itself in a shambolic state) and an unreliable Republic Party of India (Athawale).
There was speculation of a possible thaw between the two estranged Senas following the MNS chief’s visit to ‘Matoshree’ in July this year after Mr. Uddhav Thackeray underwent an angioplasty.
In a maudlin pre-recorded video played at the rally, Mr. Bal Thackeray virtually announced his retirement from public life, urging his followers to stand by his son Mr. Uddhav Thackeray and his grandson Aditya.