NATIONAL

We are like orphans, says Thackeray

MUMBAI March 30. The Shiv Sena supremo, Bal Thackeray, today expressed his disenchantment with the way things are being handled by the Centre, be it the Iraq war or Islamic terrorism and said the country was "like an orphan" for want of able leaders of stature. He avoided mentioning names, but said his Hindutva was not the common garden variety but "bitter" compared to his ally governing the country. "If we blame Pakistani hand for everything, then where is our hand" of retaliation, he asked.

Speaking at a press conference here after addressing a two-day convention of the Sena's State unit chiefs, he said that Hindutva would override all considerations of identities such as Maharashtrians, Bengalis, Tamils, Gujaratis etc.

Despite Mr. Thackeray's critical stance towards the BJP, the inevitability of continuing the existing arrangement with the party in Maharashtra and seeking to spread it elsewhere is quite strong. On Saturday, his son and the Sena's executive president, Uddhav Thackeray, had spoken of electoral ties with the BJP in other States as well "if the BJP is agreeable." Hitherto, in others States, the Sena had put up candidates against the BJP, but with little success in terms of gains.

Mr. Uddhav said the Sena outfits in other States had leaders who were akin to Eklavya, who followed the master without direct contact with him.

Now, they had all been called for a conclave here to give them a boost. In all probability, these State units would be encouraged to contest local bodies elections first in preparation for bigger electoral battles later.

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