As wave after wave of Shiv Sainiks from all over Maharashtra converged upon Shivaji Park on Sunday morning to attend the funeral of their founder, Sena chief Bal Thackeray, a majority had a singular wish to see their party and the Raj Thackeray-led Maharashtra Navnirman Sena to join forces and fight the 2014 Assembly elections.
“At this moment there is nothing more we would wish other than to see [Sena Executive President] Uddhav Thackeray and [his estranged cousin] Raj Thackeray bury the hatchet. This is what even Balasaheb would have wanted,” says Adesh Shah, a Sainik from Mahad in Raigarh district.
While the embers are yet to die down, the discerning party workers are already worried about the future and its gloomy portents for the Sena.
Dilip Ukirde feels it would have been better if Raj Thackeray took over the operational functioning of the Sena, with Uddhav Thackeray functioning as the symbolic head of the party.
Our current leadership, especially in the State Legislature, is not aggressive enough. “We need a powerful leader who does not mince words,” feels Nitin Jadhav from Kurla.
“Now that the Marathi manoos has lost his support with Balasaheb’s passing, it is our fervid wish that the two parties to join hands and take up our cause together. The Shiv Sena and the MNS must come together if we are to realize Balasaheb’s dream of fluttering the saffron flag from the Vidhan Sabha in 2014,” says, Rajan Jichkar from Ghatkopar.
It is only the question of leadership at the top…our organization at the ground level is impeccable,” says Uday Kave.
Suresh Lande from Bhiwandi feels that the exit of former Sena leaders like Chhagan Bhujbal, Ganesh Naik and Narayan Rane were the biggest “betrayals” that eventually weakened the party’s power structure over the last two decades.
“We could have been in power by now had it not been for their desertion. With Balasaheb no more, we feel as though we have lost our father…our household has been shattered,” says Arvind Bhilare.
“We all hoped he would pull through…Uddhav’s angioplasty had come as a great shock to him." Bhilare added.
Shankar Suryawanshi, who has directed Sainiks in his locality to be peppered with hoardings of Balasaheb, describing him as a “Saffron Storm” and “The Last Hindu”
“Now with his death, there is a strong possibility that many will move over to the MNS in favour of a more decisive leader (read Raj Thackeray). I wish Balasaheb could have brought the cousins together, or made some adjustments,” he opines.
Thackeray’s funeral procession, that was scheduled to leave Matoshree in suburban Bandra at 7 a.m. today, was delayed as roads around the Thackeray's residence were blocked with thousands of fervent supporters.
The body of the 86-year old patriarch was finally brought out of his house a little after 9 a.m. in a hearse adorned with flowers. Mr Uddhav Thackeray broke down as his father’s body was being put on the truck.
The funeral hearse will make its way through Mahim Causeway, stopping by at Sena Bhavan, the Shiv Sena headquarters in Dadar where prominent leaders and celebrities are expected to gather before finally reaching Shivaji Park.
Thackeray’s body will be kept at Shivaji Park till 5 p.m. for people to pay their respects, where the funeral would be held there with full State honours.