Mumbai: If there is near a consensus within Uddhav Thackeray’s Shiv Sena, it is that party MP Sanjay Raut, 61, has caused huge damage to the organisation by his highly controversial statements.
Recently, Raut claimed, without providing any evidence, that Chief Minister Eknath Shinde’s son and MP Shrikant Shinde had hired a goon of Thane to eliminate him. In the past, he had made even more outlandish statements that caused incalculable damage to the party.
Raut's controversial statements
After the COVID pandemic, Raut alleged that most of the doctors and nurses had abandoned their responsibility and fled from the hospitals. This evoked howls of protests from the medical fraternity, after which Uddhav was forced to undertake damage control.
In January 2020, Raut, who is the executive editor of the party mouthpiece Saamana, claimed that Indira Gandhi used to regularly call on the late drug lord Karim Lala at Pydhonie in central Mumbai. It is a different matter that Karim Lala operated out of Dongri and not Pydhonie. The Congress was understandably furious over this bizarre claim and slammed Raut. The MP, most recently, alleged that Rs2,000 crore had changed hands to get Shinde’s faction recognised as the Shiv Sena along with the bow and arrow symbol. Raut promised to produce evidence and as usual failed to proffer any.
Many supporters of Uddhav Thackeray say that their leader is paying a heavy political price by not taking action against Raut despite the huge damage he continues to inflict. The only thing Uddhav has done is not promote Raut as the editor of Saamana. Instead, he has appointed his wife Rashmi Thackeray as the editor, while Raut continues to be the executive editor.
Sources: Raut is useful to Uddhav as a conduit between him & NCP chief
According to sources close to Uddhav, Raut is useful to him as a conduit between him and NCP chief Sharad Pawar. Though there is a perception that Raut is being used by Pawar to influence Uddhav, Raut’s proximity to Pawar can be gauged from the fact that when the MP was arrested by the Enforcement Directorate (ED) in the infamous Patrawala chawl multi-crore scam, the Maratha honcho personally called up Prime Minister Narendra Modi and sought his intervention in taking Raut out of the hook. Incidentally, Pawar did no such thing for his own partyman Nawab Malik who, too, was arrested by the ED.
It is not that Uddhav has always obliged Raut. For example, when Raut insisted that his brother and MLA from Bhandup, Sunil Raut, should be made a minister in the Maha Vikas Aghadi government, which was helmed by Uddhav, the latter put his foot down and refused a ministerial berth for Sunil.
Sanjay Raut started his career in Saamana as a journalist. When Bal Thackeray decided to publish a Hindi tabloid ‘Dopahar Ka Saamana’, Raut recommended Sanjay Nirupam as the editor. Thackeray Senior was so impressed with Nirupam’s aggressive propagation of the Hindutva line that he made him a member of the Rajya Sabha much to the chagrin of Raut.
Raut won over the confidence of Balasaheb by carrying a series called ‘Marathon Mulaquats’ or Marathon Interviews of the Sena founder. These interviews revealed Balasaheb’s thoughts on a host of issues and they were picked up by other newspapers and TV channels.
Balasaheb then decided to reward Raut by sending him to the Rajya Sabha. It is learnt that Raut does not share the same chemistry with Aaditya Thackeray as with Uddhav. “Given the widespread nature of resentment against Sanjay Raut within our party, I won’t be in the least surprised if he is politically downsized in the near future,” a top Sena source observed.
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