Smita Thackeray set to join the Congress

Saturday, November 28, 2009, 17:54
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Bal Thackeray’s daughter-in-law Smita Thackeray plans to join Congress; Shiv Sena says each to his own.

Photo: Smita Thackeray

Photo: Smita Thackeray

Mumbai: Smita Thackeray, 48, daughter-in-law of Shiv Sena supremo Bal Thackeray, has indicated that she is keeping her “options open,” including joining the Congress.

Smita Thackeray, estranged wife of Bal Thackeray’s son Jaydev, is said to be unhappy with the Shiv Sena.

Rahul Thackeray, Smita Thackeray’s son, told reporters at their residence in Mumbai that his mother is not involved in “power struggle” and that she intends to move forward in politics, but she did not get a good response from the Shiv Sena.

Photo: Bal Thackeray

Photo: Bal Thackeray

Smita Thackeray, her son added, had not yet left the Shiv Sena, but she has “kept her options open.”

Rahul was replying to questions on reports in the media that his mother was getting ready to join the Congress.

Smita Thackeray is reportedly upset with the “parochial politics” of the Shiv Sena and also of the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (BNS), founded by Raj Thackeray. She, of course, had no problem with the parochial politics of the Sena till now. Or prehaps the parochialism is a new development. She has not clarified the matter.

Rahul Thackeray told reporters that his mother was “out of town” and had asked him to meet the mediapersons on her behalf. However, he was not able to answer all the questions the reporters asked.

In an interview to an English-language newspaper, Smita Thackeray has alleged that she is being “sidelined by a coterie” in Matoshree, the residence of Bal Thackeray in Bandra East, in Mumbai, and also being “denied her due in the party.”

Smita said though she had been promised a seat in the Rajya Sabha in 2008, the seat was given to Bharat Kumar Raut, a senior journalist.

She had further complained in the interview that she felt “stifled and suffocated” in Matoshree, Bal Thackeray’s residence.

Smita Thackeray’s joining Congress is still not a certainty, but things seem to be moving in that direction. But Smita Thackeray could be a doube-edged sword for the Congress. Whether she recognises it or not, she enjoyed a lot of influence in business, entertainment sector and among politicians due to being Bal Thackeray’s daughter-in-law. It is not possible that she would bid goodbye to that entire way of life and suddenly become Sonia Gandhi’s loyal footsoldier. Her demands of power and position might be a bit of a problem for the Congress. Congress itselt has to play a careful game not to upet the Nationalist Congress Party of Sharad Pawar with whom they are sharing power in Maharashtra.

On the other hand, after Raj Thackeray’s leaving the Shiv Sena in protest against Uddhav Thackeray, this is another sign that all is not well with the Sena. Earlier Sena veterans who left the party and signed up with Congress or NCP include Chhagan Bhujbal who joined the NCP, and Narayan Rane who joined the Congress. Also, Bal Thackeray is going to be quite upset if she does join the Congress – or her split from the Sena would mean that she and Uddhav Thackeray are not on the same page for a while.

Smita Thackeray had praised Sonia Gandhi, Congress president, and Rahul Gandhi, Congress general secretary and MP, as well as expressed her admiration for the Congress party’s ideology.

In the interview, she went on to charge the Shiv Sena with being “unfair” to the Maharashtrians with its “divisive and parochial” politics and also condemned the attacks on “fellow Indians” in the name of regionalism and language.

Smita Thackeray has produced a few Hindi movies, including Haseena Maan Jayegi.

She had become a centre of power when the Shiv Sena-Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) coalition ruled Maharashtra during 1995-99.

Smita had continued to stay in Matoshree even after her husband Jaydev Thackeray left the household many years ago.

But, she later moved into a bungalow in Juhu, which kept her conveniently close to the Bollywood.

Rahul, her son, who has learnt filmmaking from abroad, is set to make his first movie in Marathi.

Raj Thackeray, the nephew of Bal Thackeray, had left the Shiv Sena about 3 years ago and later floated the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS).

Meanwhile, the Shiv Sena is keeping silent on reports that Smita Thackeray is planning to join the Congress.

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