50 years ago, when Bal Thackeray formed the Shiv Sena, he berated politics and said his organisation will practice 80 per cent social work. Five decades later, his grandson, Aaditya Thackeray, sought to redefine it. “I’d say it has to be 100% politics in order to come to power. It’s only once you are in power that you can carry out the social work you want to, with full force,” he said.
If there was one example of the change that the heir apparent was driving through the Sena, then this would be it. Aaditya, who turned 26 this week, is the Sena’s card to draw young voters.
The Sena sees Aaditya’s job as being two-fold. “The Sena voter is evolving. The new-generation voter may no longer want to see politicians practice the politics of violence and agitations. He talks a language that Aaditya can identify and converse in,” said a senior Shiv Sena leader.
The party expects Aaditya to cast their net wider. Through Aaditya, the Sena also hopes to fight old perceptions about the Sena and hope that more people take to the party. “The new Sena isn’t the party of violent, controversial arguments. This is the reason behind the conscious push to make him the face of the party, especially among the urban youth,” said a Sena MLA.
As part of this plan, Thackeray does things that the Thackeray household hasn’t be known for. He pens open letters to critics in crisp English, is active on social networking sites like Twitter, Facebook and Instagram and has asked all party leaders to do the same. Aaditya also pitches for restaurants to be allowed on rooftops and wants the city’s nightlife to be revived.
In fact, the younger Thackeray has focused his attention on issues about the city and keeps a close watch on the party’s performance in its citadel of the BMC.
However, old-timers in the Sena said they were not fully convinced if this was the way ahead for the party. “With such an approach, we may not have such an effective way to counter the MNS aggression. The MNS showed us that overt aggression can still click with the Marathi youth,” said a party worker.
The other challenge before Aaditya would be to ensure wider acceptability among rural areas.