As 2005 repeats, it’s Aaditya Thackeray’s time to rise and shine

Updated on Jun 30, 2022 09:59 AM IST

The 32-year-old, who is the first from the Thackeray family to run for public office, will also have to hold on to the Shiv Sena’s core voter — a nativist, son-of-the-soil party cadre and support base

He explained that Aaditya had an opportunity to build the organisation from ground-up. (Vijay Bate)
He explained that Aaditya had an opportunity to build the organisation from ground-up. (Vijay Bate)

Mumbai: On June 21, the Shiv Sena split in the middle and despite his best efforts, its president Uddhav Thackeray has failed to keep the flock together. However, even as the future of the party has been called into question — with the support of 39 MLAs, Eknath Shinde-led rebel faction has staked claim to the party — this could well turn out to be Yuva Sena chief Aaditya Thackeray’s turn to shine, as he is being called to prove his leadership much like his father did after the revolts by Narayan Rane and Raj Thackeray in 2005.

Despite the party’s depleted bench strength in the assembly, Aaditya, a legislator from Worli, will have the opportunity to show that he can be an aggressive yet responsible opposition figure. He also has the responsibility of leading the party in the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) elections due this year.

The 32-year-old, who is the first from the Thackeray family to run for public office, will also have to hold on to the Shiv Sena’s core voter — a nativist, son-of-the-soil party cadre and support base — even as he develops the cosmopolitan, non-Marathi voter base.

“In hindsight, one can say that it was mistake for both Uddhav and Aaditya to be part of the government. The Shiv Sena’s strength is the party organization… it needed an organizer, but got a chief minister and a minister instead. Aaditya should have been drafted into a larger role in the party instead to develop his organizational skills,” a former legislator of Shiv Sena who wished to remain anonymous, said.

He explained that Aaditya had an opportunity to build the organisation from ground-up.

“Aaditya can work among exploited yet ignored sections like the farm workers, marginal farmers and unorganized sector workers. But the question is, are they willing to work hard and for a sustained period of time? First and foremost, the Shiv Sena is an organization and its workers are synonymous with struggle. They are the biggest assets for the party, but they want a leader and ecosystem that can support and complement their work,” the former MLA added.

Any attempt by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which has the image of being a party dominated by the non-Maharashtrians and mercantile interests, to jeopardise the Shiv Sena’s existence is likely to galvanise its supporters behind the Sena. The Marathi manoos, who is the mainstay of the Shiv Sena’s politics, fears being marginalised further in Mumbai and sees the party as its alter ego. However, Shiv Sena insiders say that with the revolt in the ranks indicating the distance and disconnect between the Thackerays and the rank-and-file, Aaditya will have to reorient his politics to a more rooted idiom.

The Thackerays have been charged with being inaccessible, hands-off and surrounded by a coterie that prevents the common worker from accessing them. Aaditya faces the challenge of moving beyond his immediate circle to strike a dialogue with the common Shiv Sainik, like his grandfather, late Shiv Sena supremo Bal Thackeray, who was reputed to have his ears to the ground, and knew several of his workers by name or face.

“Aaditya must transcend the culture of darbari politics that has set into the Shiv Sena,” the former MLA quoted above said. He noted that the disconnect could be seen in how the leadership did not have an inkling that an operation of this scale was being launched.

Another veteran Shiv Sainik from Mumbai noted that the party being ousted by the government would help mobilise the cadre and its core voters. Aaditya has age on his side and experience of being part of the state administration, and would bring this to the table in the party, he explained.

The urbane Aaditya, who has a keen interest in international affairs, especially in British politics, must focus on nurturing the Shiv Sena’s roots, party insiders said.

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