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'The roof might have caved in'

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Last updated on: January 18, 2006 13:11 IST
In a freewheeling interview to Saamna, the Shiv Sena daily newspaper, Sena supremo Bal Thackeray spoke his mind about the recent upheavals in the party.

We publish relevant excerpts from the interview with Saamna Editor Sanjay Raut. Kind courtesy: Saamna.

A picture is emerging that the Shiv Sena is in the midst of a grave crisis.

What crisis are you talking about? Shall I call it a minor problem or a crisis? I've braved a lot many storms before this. This is not the first time I am facing a storm. It is a different thing if you want to call this problem a grave crisis.

When people asked me to merge the Shiv Sena into the then Janata Party, I told them: This will never happen. If you people want to stay in the Sena or leave it will be your decision. I have sustained the growth of Sena even in those circumstances. I took the saffron flag to every nook and corner of Maharashtra and even raised the saffron flag over Delhi.

Do you feel any kind of loss due to this storm?

The roof might have caved in but the foundation and the walls are still very strong. I don't feel any loss due to this storm.

A lieutenant like Narayan Rane left the organisation and you recently.

He did not leave. I threw him out of the party. Do you get this? I've already told you about his black deeds. I'll repeat the entire thing if you have time.

But Rane was an aggressive Sainik.

For God's sake! Since when did he become aggressive? He began his aggression in the bylanes of Chembur (a suburb in northeast Mumbai). It got a platform because of the Sena. I gave shape to his aggression. I made him what he was in the organisation and he accepts that.

Once Rane was sitting at the same place where you are now and I asked him: Tell me Narya (a derisive term to describe Narayan Rane the same way Chhagan Bhujbal is referred to as Lakhoba in Sena language), when you roamed the streets of Chembur showing off your aggression, did you ever imagine that you will become Maharashtra's chief minister?

He said no without even thinking twice. You have made me what I am today and I'd have been killed in an encounter had it not been for the Shiv Sena.

These words of Rane are still with me. Do you understand?

Rane says the Shiv Sena progressed because of him.

Oh! This is not something new. The same yelling was even done by our Lakhoba after leaving the Sena. What do you think I have been doing for the last 40 years? The credit goes to my Shiv Sainiks. Tomorrow Rane may even say the Congress progressed owing to him in Maharashtra.

Even when many people left the Sena before, Mumbai and Konkan remained the Sena's forts.

That is absolutely right.

But this time the picture is different. The place where the Shiv Sena was born is under siege now. The walls of the fortress seem to be crumbling.

The reason is we showed a little kind heartedness towards Naroba. It seemed the entire Konkan belt was gifted to him. He made that place his stronghold by using money and muscle power. He distributed lots of money to pressurise voters there. Because of his acts of terrorism we suffered in Malavan and Kankavali during the recent by-elections.

He misused power and muscle power to a great extent and this was starkly ignored by Home Minister R R Patil and Chief Minister (Vilasrao) Deshmukh. Even complaints lodged with the Election Commission bore no results. He made blatant use of muscle power. He would threaten people against giving accommodation or meeting venues to the Shiv Sena and people budged to his pressure tactics.

Isn't this an open act of terrorism?

Where's the law and order? Patil put a ban on dance bars. But his police were dancing to Narya's tunes. What was the home department doing? (Sena working president Uddhav (Thackeray)went there for campaigning along with the Mumbai police. The owner of the restaurant they went to have some snacks requested the police personnel not to tell others they were with Uddhav's entourage or else Rane's men would destroy his hotel.

At that moment Rane's goons came along in a motorcade and asked what was going on. The police party said they belonged to the Rane camp and the situation was brought under control. This was the extent of his terrorism. The Election Commission, the local police and the collector did not take any action over this incident. They did not let us campaign properly; our polling agents were threatened in broad daylight. But it is alright.

Today they are in power and this is the arrogance of power. But believe me tomorrow the Shiv Sena will be in power and all those who helped Rane will have to give an explanation then. Be they election officials or Naroba's hired thugs.

Wasn't the Shiv Sena using the same formula earlier? Today you are complaining against Rane.

What complaint? I said it's alright. Who's this Naroba? Wait for some time. The Shiv Sena never indulged in such acts of terrorism. There is a difference between aggression and acts of terrorism. The Shiv Sena fought according to the circumstances. I never let the Shiv Sena slip into a party of terrorists.

We stood and fought for one ideology. We always had power. Even today we have power. We never utilised this strength to win elections via acts of terrorism. We would use our strength only to fight injustice done to the Marathi people and will continue to do so in the future.

Rane was thrown out of the party because he criticised the way in which the Sena was being run.

No. It's a white lie. Naroba alleged we trade party tickets to the highest bidder. This matter was settled at Ranga Sharda (a hotel in Bandra, northwest Mumbai when Rane spoke on the topic. He was sitting on the dais. (Former chief minister Manohar Joshi was also present. People's representatives from all corners of Maharashtra were also present at that event. I asked an open question. I asked people to come forward with instances of ticket selling without any fear or anybody's pressure.

I wanted the answer to my question: Tell me how much money did we demand from you to distribute tickets? I will not keep Uddhav in the Sena if somebody gave or he took money from somebody to give tickets. We all will leave the Sena at once. But then all of them said these things had never happened.

Later, Naroba threatened his band of Sainiks to tell lies against Uddhav. I have never allowed such gangsterism in the Sena.

What happened after your speech at Ranga Sharada?

What happened? Naroba continued with his threats. Even I was keeping a close watch on him. He then went to Sindhudurg (district in Maharashtra's Konkan region). Earlier whenever he would go to Sindhudurg he would take my phone calls. If he was not present at the time of my call, he would immediately call back. But this time he did not call me even after repeated phone calls. Then the picture started emerging.

He went to Goa from Sindhudurg. He came back to Kankavali with a huge morcha. He organised a public meeting after reaching his hometown. He spoke about the mismanagement of party affairs by Uddhav, ow tickets were being sold to the highest bidder. He asked his followers if they would support him if he took a decision against the party. They supported him by slogans like 'Narayan Rane aage badho, hum tumhare saath hai (March ahead Narayan Rane, we are with you).'

I received all these reports. When he came to Mumbai his supporters surrounded him with a cavalcade of more than 40 cars and chanted slogans like 'Narayan Rane angaar (fire) hain, baaki sab bhangaar (feeble) hain. Since when did you become fire?

He ran away to his house after fooling his supporters that he wanted to go to Matoshree. He did not turn up for the next two days. Later he turned up at Sena loyalist Suhas Samant's hotel near Panvel. He briefed Samant about his plans. Samant told him that even though they were good friends he would never betray the Sena for him.

Rane threatened Samant with dire consequences and left Panvel in a huff. I got this news immediately on my mobile. I understood Rane's gameplan of creating a split in the party. I immediately summoned all the Sena leaders and told them about Rane's misadventure. What should we do? Earlier, Sharad Pawar had made a statement that Rane was in touch with him for the past three, four months. State Congress president Prabha Rau also hinted that Rane was in touch with her for the last six months.

What was his need to meet this people? He was trying to strengthen his roots in Delhi. The Shiv Sena could not afford such blatant indiscipline. He would have made himself a martyr by saying that he resigned from the party in protest against Uddhav's mismanagement. I would not let him do that. I immediately summoned a meeting of my party legislators and announced that I was sacking Rane from the Shiv Sena for anti-party activities. This is the background

Part II: 'I am not an opportunist'