Shiv Sena struck dumb by Smita Thackeray’s plan to join Congress (Lead)

Mumbai, Nov 28 (Inditop.com) The Shiv Sena Saturday literally switched to silent mode as party chief Bal Thackeray’s daughter-in-law Smita Jaidev Thackeray said she planned to join the Congress. Her son Rahul, meanwhile, said he had not been informed of her plans.

The phones of top Sena leaders remained “unavailable”, “switched off” or “not reachable” since a prominent national daily broke the news, suddenly diverting the party’s attention from the election for a new Mumbai mayor to replace incumbent Shubha Raul.

According to an interview with the English daily, Smita has claimed that she is being sidelined by a coterie in Matoshree, the Sena chief’s residence in Bandra East, and was being denied her due in the party.

She has also alleged that she was promised a berth in Rajya Sabha last year, but at the last minute it was given to senior journalist Bharat Kumar Raut.

Expressing her frustration, Smita — the estranged wife of Thackeray’s son Jaidev — has also said that she is feeling stifled and “suffocated” in Matoshree.

The 48-year-old Thacekray bahu is enamoured by the leadership qualities of Congress president Sonia Gandhi and her son Rahul, and says both of them are doing a great job of leading the country.

Expressing her admiration for both Sonia and Rahul as well as the Congress ideology, Smita said she plans to call on them and join the national ruling party soon.

Bal Thackeray’s grandson Rahul however said his mother had not informed him of her plans to join the Congress.

Interacting with mediapersons here on behalf of his mother Smita, Rahul endorsed her view that “she is not getting any support from the Shiv Sena”.

“However, all options are open before her. It cannot be said that she has taken any final decision to join the Congress,” Rahul said.

Mumbai Regional Congress Committee (MRCC) president Kripa Shankar Singh also said there has been no formal indication from Smita Thackeray to join the Congress.

In New Delhi, a Congress spokesman said the party would have no reservations if the Maharahstra unit had no objections to induct her in the party.

Besides being deprived of any personal progress and getting marginalised in the party, Smita also said that the party is being “unfair to Maharashtrians” with its divisive and parochial politics. She also frowned upon attacks on fellow Indians in the name of language and regionalism.

Smita, who loves to dabble with Bollywood and has produced a couple of Hindi films like “Haseena Maan Jayegi”, had grown into a power centre during the Shiv Sena-Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) rule 1995-99.

She continued to live in Matoshree with the Thackeray family though her husband Jaidev had left the household several years ago.

However, a few years ago, she moved into a separate bungalow in Juhu as it kept her close to the hub of Bollywood.

Her son Rahul, who has learnt the art and craft of filmmaking from abroad, is on the verge of making his first film in Marathi.

If and when Smita joins the Congress, she will be the second member of the Thackeray clan to exit the Shiv Sena. Bal Thackeray’s nephew Raj left the party almost three years ago to launch Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS).

Prior to Raj, several top Sena leaders like Chhagan Bhujbal, Narayan Rane and Sanjay Nirupam had also left the party.