Now, one might ask, what’s in the Thackeray name? Quite a lot, one might say, given the tussle over it. Uddhav has been constantly taunting the rebels to try and contest the elections without the Thackerays. Some of the rebels have shot back with the barb that if he cared about his father so much, he should spend the Rs 500 crore required for maintenance of his father’s memorial at the Mayor’s Bungalow at Shivaji Park out of his own pocket rather than rely on government funds for the same.
In this columnist’s opinion Bal Thackeray did not deserve a government memorial at all, for while he was a popular demagogue, all that he contributed to the state was violence and lumpenisation. Sharad Pawar had famously said that Bal Thackeray had the unique talent to pick up street goons and turn them into political leaders (like, for example, Narayan Rane and Anand Dighe, the mentor of Eknath Shinde).
Shiv Sena initially wanted a memorial at Shivaji Park where Bal Thackeray was cremated. But the courts decreed that Shivaji Park was public space and could not be politicised. So, it was Sharad Pawar, a good friend of the Thackerays, who suggested in 2013 the Mayor’s Bungalow as a memorial and Devendra Fadnavis as chief minister in 2016 provided the funds to seal his party’s alliance with the Shiv Sena. So, can the Shinde-Fadnavis government stop funding the memorial? They will be damned if they do and damned if they do not.
Now, Smita Thackeray, the divorced daughter-in-law of Bal Thackeray, has long been demanding a ticket to the Assembly or Parliament but Uddhav Thackeray had steadfastly refused. So did Raj Thackeray. When the Shiv Sena used to run riot during Valentine’s Day celebrations, it was at the specific instructions of Bal Thackeray who was upset at a leading greetings card company refusing to fund his favourite daughter-in-law’s public events for AIDS victims. Uddhav and Raj both put an immediate stop to that violence the moment she divorced and moved out of Matoshree.
Even before Balasaheb had died, Smita had threatened to join the Congress if she was denied ticket to contest the election in 2009. Uddhav Thackeray had then said cuttingly, “The day she does (join the Congress), you will find not a single flower anywhere in Mumbai. Because I would have bought every last bloom, got them woven into the world’s biggest wreath and sent it to Sonia Gandhi. Because Congress would then truly need to mourn her entry to their ranks!”