The civic polls in Mumbai and other cities in Maharashtra will witness a face-off between the next generation of Thackerays.
The February 21 civic polls are seen as a battle between ruling partners in the state, the Shiv Sena and the BJP, to establish control in Maharashtra’s cities. It will also be a fight between estranged Thackeray cousins — Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray and Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) chief Raj Thackeray — for Marathi votes.
The tussle between the two cousin brothers may spill over to the next generation — Uddhav’s son Aaditya has been projected as the Sena’s star campaigner and Raj’s son Amit is jumping in the fray to campaign actively for the MNS.
Amit, 25, a commerce graduate, who is pursuing his MBA in marketing from city-based LN Welingkar Institute of Management Institute, will undertake roadshows in four cities — Mumbai, Pune, Nashik and Thane — as the MNS is facing a do-or-die situation in the civic polls.
MNS leader Shirish Sawant said Amit will play an important role in the campaign. “After Rajsaheb, he will be our star campaigner.”
Amit did participate in the campaign for the party during the 2014 Assembly polls, but his role was secondary and he mostly accompanied his father. This time, he will do his own roadshows in four cities to attract young voters, mostly in the 18-25 age group. Significantly, the Sena, too, is expecting Aaditya to attract young voters. Aaditya is also part of the Sena’s core planning group. It remains to be seen whether the young scions target each other during the campaign.
So far, Raj had shied away from launching his son, unlike Uddhav, who helped Aaditya make a grand political debut in 2010. Raj was launched in politics by his uncle, the late Bal Thackeray, founder of the Sena. He headed the Bhartiya Vidyarthi Sena (BVS) until he quit the outfit in 2005. Amit, who prefers to keep a low profile, was also seen attending the party functions along with Raj in the past two years. He is also a keen cartoonist like his father, but none of his cartoons have been published till date. In addition, he is a football fan and follows all soccer tournaments.
Political experts doubt whether Amit’s campaign will help the MNS much, as the party is at its lowest ebb. “People will look at Amit as a novelty, but this will not translate into votes for the party,” said eminent political commentator Prakash Bal. “Even Aaditya has not made a major impact on the Sena’s prospects. Apart from die-hard Shiv Sainiks, he hardly appeals to the electorate,” he added.
The MNS is currently plagued by low morale as well as large scale defections among its leaders and workers. It is not being seen as a serious contender for the civic polls and the whole focus is now between the BJP and Sena.