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When Bal Thackeray Faced Rebellion: How the Sena Supremo Steered Party to Safety

Maharashtra crisis: what can Uddhav learn from father Bal Thackeray on how to handle internal rebellion?

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As the deadlock between Uddhav Thackeray and 'rebel' Shiv Sena MLAs headed by Maharashtra cabinet minister Eknath Shinde continues, it is pertinent to note that the right-wing party faced bouts of rebellion under the watch of Uddhav's father and party founder Bal Thackeray.

Balasaheb, who founded the Shiv Sena in 1966 on the plank of 'Maratha pride', never contested an election or held any government office. He, however, remained an overreaching shadow over the politics of Maharashtra as he continued to lead the party till his last breath in 2012.

What does history tell us about rebellion within Shiv Sena and what can Uddhav learn from his father?

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When the 'Blue-eyed Boy' Rebelled

Chhagan Bhujbal, a close aid of Bal Thackeray, spelt trouble for the Shiv Sena in 1991 and announced a new outfit named Shiv Sena-B. It was the first rebellion that the 25-year-old party was facing.

At that time, Bal Thackeray declared Bhujbal a 'traitor' and nicknamed him “Lakho-ba" a treacherous character in Marathi theatre. In 1997 when the Shiv Sena-BJP combine was ruling the state, hundreds of Shiv Sainiks attacked the bungalow of Bhujbal and he barely managed to escape.

Balasaheb supported the attack saying Shiv Sainiks were angry because of his provocative speeches. The attack on Bhujbal clearly sent a message to opponents of Bal Thackeray that he never forgets or forgives his opponents.

When Balasaheb Wanted To Quit the Sena

The charges against Uddhav Thackeray are not new for the Shiva Sena leadership. 30 years ago, in 1992, Madhav Deshpande had raised questions about Bal Thackeray and his working style.

He had accused both Uddhav and Raj Thackeray of meddling in the party affairs. After that, Bal Thackeray wrote an article in Sena mouthpiece Saamana.

Balasaheb wrote that if any Shiv Sainik would come to him and tell him that they are leaving the party because of his working style, he himself would quit the party.

This resulted in several Shiv Sainiks taking to the streets and threatening self immolation if Bal Thackeray quits the party.

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When Shiv Sena Faced a Double Threat in 2005

In the year 2005, Shiv Sena faced a double shock. First, Narayan Rane left the party to join Congress with 10 MLAs, and then Raj Thackeray left the party. Raj Thackeray at that time had said that his fight is not against the party leadership but against the coterie around.

Two tall leaders leaving the party one by one was a big shock for the Sena. Though Uddhav was the working president at that time, it was Bal Thackeray who steered the ship to safety.

He not only put his trust in son Uddhav but also kept the party cadre together.

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