Seven years ago, on this very day, Shiv Sena icon Balasaheb Thackeray passed away after a long and fruitful life. After his demise on the 17th of November, 2012, he was awarded a state funeral by the government. The entire city came to a grinding halt and hundreds and thousands of people gathered at his funeral to pay their respect to the stalwart.
As respected and revered as Balasaheb was, he never formally held any position in the Shiv Sena. He did not need to, everyone knew who the King was. There’s a certain lesson in there for the current Shiv Sena supremo Uddhav Thackeray who has committed harakiri in his pursuit of the chair of Chief Minister of Maharashtra.
A lot has been said about how Balasaheb would have viewed the Shiv Sena’s conduct post the 2019 Assembly Elections in the state. While politics is a funny sport and people should expect the unexpected, the late stalwart did reserve some very harsh critique for the people his son is now trying to ally with. Uddhav Thackeray has abandoned the BJP and appears desperate to ally with the Congress and the NCP.
In an interview to NDTV in 1999, Bal Thackeray had used the term “scoundrel” when asked about the possibility of an alliance with the NCP. He rejected the possibility of any alliance with Sharad Pawar. He said, “It is for a man to decide whether he wants to remain a gentleman or a scoundrel. How can I stop? If anybody is trying to become a scoundrel… Okay. But I will not go along with a scoundrel, whoever he may be.” “I will never, never, an enemy is an enemy,” Balasaheb further said.
In January 2012, Balasaheb raked up the issue of Sonia Gandhi’s “foreign origin” during an interview to Saamna, the Shiv Sena mouthpiece. “What love will she have for this country and what is her contribution here,” he asked. “You see what is going on in the country. There is controversy over the Army chief’s age and the matter is in court. Whose reputation is in jeopardy? There is no question of Sonia’s reputation as she is a foreigner,” he said.
Balasaheb did not spare Rahul Gandhi either. He said, “He was born yesterday and wants to be prime minister today. Is the PM’s post up for auction?” He had heavily criticized the series of corruption cases during the Congress regime as well. He asserted, “The Yuvraj of Congress (Rahul Gandhi) is very vocal on the corruption by Mayawati. However, he is not saying anything about the corruption by his government.” He also wrote, “His mummy (Sonia Gandhi) is also quiet on the issue. The Prime Minister is also not opening his mouth. The truth is hidden in the silence”.
Balasaheb had even claimed once that it would be better to hand over India back to the British than being governed by Sonia Gandhi. In a video message in November 2012, he said, “Overthrow the Congress governments in the state and at the Centre, which are a ‘cancer’.” It’s no wonder then that Sonia Gandhi was extremely displeased with Pranab Mukherjee when the Congress stalwart met with Balasaheb during his presidential campaign in 2012.
Shiv Sena’s role in the demolition of the Babri Masjid is also well known. It is also a documented fact that Balasaheb never felt apologetic about the entire incident. The Liberhan Commission Report documents the stalwart as saying, “We will not stop now. Hindus have united as never before. The nation needs a strong united force of Hindus. They want to project the United Hindutva front. We want BJP to be power in New Delhi. Political compulsions compelled BJP to discard the moderate stand of Vajpayee. I am glad that I have breathed life into the Hindus. Since the time of the Muslim invasion, nine centuries back Hindus had lost their souls. The need to get their spine back, I did just that. That Rath even if it is power-driven appeals to the Hindu. Arjun received the Gita from Lord Krishna in a Rath. Anyone who takes to Rath is truly resurrecting the spirit of Hindutva. I am proud of having done that. I am also proud of my organizing skills. Everyone knows that I am the power behind the power — no aspersions on my friend Joshi – the Murli (flute) beautiful (Manohar) notes. Nevertheless, no flute can strike the right notes unless someone who knows how to place the right finger at the right spot at the right time.”
He continued, “On December 6, 1992, found how much power I gained in inspiring people. In fact, it was a moment of exultation. I also noticed that I had all the power, so long as I swung the mob but the moment I tried to make them turn back from their onwards assault towards the monument, I found nobody would listen to me. You can lead a horse to water, but you cannot stop it from drinking. That is the modern version of the old proverb I learnt during the operation.”
Politics is a funny game. At the end of the day, it is about preserving self-interests. However, in his pursuit of power, Uddhav Thackeray has turned his back on the legacy of his father, the late Balasaheb Thackeray. Everything that the late Shiv Sena stalwart has been shunned by the man who took the reins of the party after his demise. And on the seventh death anniversary of Thackeray, it can be safely said that the apple has fallen very far from the tree.