NATIONAL

Senior Sena leader speaks out against Thackeray

Arunkumar Bhatt

MUMBAI: The Shiv Sena leader, Narayan Rane, has stunned the party supremo, Bal Thackeray and his son and working president of the outfit, Uddhav Thackeray, by suggesting that party posts are being traded in the party.

Mr. Rane is the Leader of the Opposition in the Legislative Assembly and a former Chief Minister. He is among the higher-level functionaries of the monolithic party. Since all party appointments are made by Mr. Bal Thackeray or by his son in his name, Mr. Rane's pinpointed attack appears to be directed against Mr. Uddhav Thackeray.

Mr. Rane recently told a meeting of principal functionaries presided over by Mr. Uddhav Thackeray that loyalty and sacrifice once mattered a lot in the Shiv Sena. Party posts should be assigned on the basis of one's devotion to duty, public work and loyalty.

Mr. Rane's remarks received wide coverage in the Marathi press. Sources said the immediate provocation for Mr. Rane's outburst was a district chief, who said the party organisation had slackened and blamed old leaders for that. The district chief was a recent entrant and his nomination was even "anti-Shiv Sena."

Normally, the senior Thackeray would have summarily sacked anybody who dared to point an accusing finger at him or his son and would have used sharp invectives as well. But so far, the chief has not reacted. Mr. Uddhav Thackeray did not join issue with Mr. Rane. Other leaders and legislators are keeping mum but it is not difficult to sense a favourable undercurrent for Mr. Rane in the Sena rank and file.

Mr. Rane refused to comment further in the matter. "Somebody had to speak on this in the party interest and I did it without any other intention," he told this correspondent. He stressed the point that the Shiv Sena must consider why some people had left the party in the past.

The Shiv Sena cadre have always felt that party tickets for different elections and Rajya Sabha nominations should go to loyal party men and not to new comers willing to spend money. This view gained strength in the last Assembly elections when Mr. Uddhav Thackeray denied tickets to loyal party workers, risking rebellion and the loss of several seats. This cost the party dearly, particularly in the coastal Konkan region, the core of the Sena strength. Mr. Rane is from the region. Like many others he does not like interference from "Matoshree," the Thackeray residence, in small issues. The district leaders have no powers to recognise and reward local functionaries. Leaders like Chhagan Bhujbal and Ganesh Naik (both in the NCP now) left the Sena following differences with Mr. Thackeray.

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