‘Happy moment’: Aaditya joins father’s Cabinet
Thackeray scion Aaditya was sworn in as a Cabinet minister on Monday in his father and chief minister Uddhav Thackeray’s council of ministers. His inclusion, which was kept under wraps, is a step towards setting him up for the top role in the party as well as fulfilling his mother, Rashmi’s dream of making him the chief minister of Maharashtra.
After swearing-in, Aaditya said it was a “happy moment” and that he got to know about the swearing-in on Monday morning. “All three parties are like family. The equations have changed; those who are truthful and want to serve the people are now in power. Talents from all the three parties have come together in the council of ministers,” he said.
Earlier in the year, when the Sena was in an alliance with the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), the Sena leader went on a state-wide tour and the party projected him as the chief ministerial candidate. The 29-year-old legislator from Worli was the first from his family to take the electoral plunge.
Aaditya’s inclusion in the Cabinet is the first time when a father and son are holding posts in the same government in the state. The Sena chief had earlier said that after being elected as an MLA, Aaditya would need an understanding of the functioning of the government before being made a minister. Hence, picking the debutant MLA as a Cabinet minister came as a surprise for a few in the party.
A senior Sena functionary said that Aaditya has been gradually given key responsibilities in the party. “First, he was given the responsibility of the BMC election campaign in 2017. The Sena become the single-largest party in the civic body. A few months later in 2018, he was elevated to the Sena leader’s position in the party to play a larger role in the workings of the party. Now, it is only natural that he would be picked in Uddhavji’s Cabinet. He has ideas and wants to bring about changes and would need a post to do so,” he said, requesting anonymity.
Party insiders said Thackeray was not keen to take up the chief ministership, but had to do it to keep the three-party alliance together. The Sena chief, with the inclusion of his son as a minister, is planning to prepare him for a larger role in the party and to take up the top post in the government when the Sena comes to power the next time.
Thackeray junior, who started his political journey with heading the party’s youth wing, has been instrumental in altering the party’s stand on issues related to youth. Aaditya spearheaded Maharashtra government’s ban on single use-plastic in the previous BJP-led government. From promoting the ban on plastic to pushing for 24x7 nightlife plan for Mumbai and doing away with its strong opposition to the ‘influence of western culture’ such as celebrating Valentine’s Day, Aaditya has been at the centre of changing the Sena’s image.
A party functionary who is close to Aaditya said, “He has a good understanding of issues, which is rare among political leaders – Be it the policy of Mumbai 24x7, which was liberal compared to the conservative stands of the Sena 20 years ago, or the policy of not opposing Valentine’s Day anymore, or getting penguins to our zoo, for which our political opponents decided to troll us. They have all proved to be a success.”
Aaditya is expected to be given a “light portfolio”. Party insiders said that he could be given forest and environment department. He said that he was open to fulfilling duties in any department given to him by the chief minister. With 105 opposition MLAs of the BJP led by former CM Devendra Fadnavis, Aaditya said that he does not foresee a “tough” road for the Maharashtra Vikas Aghadi government. “We are true and people have accepted us. We have fulfilled all the promises have been fulfilled. There is no credit war between the three parties,” he said.
Twice since being elected as the legislator, Aaditya has included his mother’s name while mentioning his full name. When asked about it, Aaditya attributed it to the teachings of his grandparents and parents. “It is natural to include their names. My mother stays away from politics; it is not true [that it was her wish to see me as a minister]. When I was entering electoral politics she asked if I really wanted to join politics,” Aaditya said.