THE THACKERAY BROTHERS
Author: Swarnima Sreedeep
The Dynastic rule has been the hallmark of Indian politics for ages. Family politics is dominant in national as well as regional parties in our country. Indian politics even today looks like a family business. In Maharashtra, the deep family bonds run parallel to politics. The Thackeray’s have been the ruling class for a time.
Bal Keshav Thackeray (fondly called Balasaheb) founded Shiv Sena, a pro-Marathi party in 1966 and is prominent ever since in Maharashtra. Balasaheb was a cartoonist and his anti-migrant stand gained popularity amongst the Marathis. His cartoons were published in the Marathi weekly named “Marmik” which means “straight to the point”. His cartoons were politically sharp and were always released at the perfect point in time. There was no looking back for them after that. Like we all know, Maharashtra is a state which has the highest influx of migrants. So, the anti-migrant stand definitely touched the right chords. The inadequacy of resources, lack of space due to the increase in migrant camps all of which caused tension to the local residents were addressed.
Raj Shrikanth Thackeray was the nephew of Bal Thackeray and his right-hand man. Raj was always alongside Bal and was leading the youth wing as well. The similarities between Balasaheb and Raj were apparent right from his childhood be it looks or oratory skills. The fiery speeches by both of them made the Marathis swell with pride. It was a fact beyond doubt then that Raj will be the Shiv Sena supremo after Balasaheb.
Balasaheb’s son Uddhav Thackeray was far away from all the limelight with photography as his profession. However , reports suggest that it was his wife Rashmi Thackeray who wanted Uddhav to enter into politics and lead Shiv Sena after Balasaheb.
Though Uddhav was part of politics since 1998, it was in 2002 that he made his entry to politics public which was very well anticipated by then. The public jostling of power between the son and nephew started. Both had their own team of supporters who once were a close-knit Sena family. Manohar Joshi, Narayan Rane – both the former CMs were in 2 different camps. Rane owed allegiance to Uddhav while Joshi to Raj.
In 2003, the then Sena patriarch, Balasaheb appointed his son as the supremo. He who had always criticized the Congress for being a dynastic party made no difference when it came to appointing a successor for his own party.
Udhhav started heading political meetings, traders union disputes all of which were the forte of Raj until then. Moreover, the anti-migrant unabashed stand of Raj as well as Ramesh Kini murder case tarnished his image to an extent though he was later proved innocent.
The increased tension between the cousin brothers, the decision of Balasaheb who chose his own son against the nephew who was once his right-hand man, the diminishing commanding power within Shiv Sena all of which culminated in Raj creating his own party in 2006.
In 2006, Maharashtra Navnirman Sena was formed with Raj as the supremo. Balasaheb who was aged and facing health issues was distraught with this decision of Raj. A union of the brothers which he had hoped for looked like a distant dream from then on.
MNS won 13 assembly seats (out of 288) in the 2009 assembly elections, which was the first Maharashtra Legislative Assembly election that the party contested. Time and again, his party reiterated the stand “Mumbai for Mumbaikaars” which to an extent helped them secure core Marathi votes. Though this was the same stand of Shiv Sena, Uddhav with his soft-natured smile and calm way of talking couldn’t create the “Fiery Band” Raj Thackeray’s image. All that he had to his advantage was that of being Balasaheb’s son and the supremo of Shiv Sena. The gap between the brothers was also widening as time passed by.
Now, Uddhav is the 19th Chief Minister of Maharashtra. Shiv Sena under the Maha Vikas Aghadi(MVA) rules the State. MNS, on the other hand,has lost the initial charm. They won just one seat in the 2019 Assembly election. Voters state that MNS does not stick to its ideology. A party that was once representing Marathi identity ditched the same and adopted far right rhetoric. It reeks of confusion and desperation. The optics of the public has thereby drafted far away from this political party. Raj being a neta with so much charisma, oratory skills and an uncanny resemblance to Balasaheb should have been one of the top 3 parties in the state, but their performance is pathetic now.
Shiv Sena isn’t doing it any better. From poor management of the Covid crisis to the witch hunt of journalists to the involvement of the police officials in the Antilia bomb scare, it seems even their future is bleak. It is evident today more than ever that the void created by Balasaheb can never be filled.
Raj who reiterated in the past that there can be no reconciliation between the brothers when asked recently about the same replied that it is all up to God. Let’s wait and watch!