Monday Musings:Royal families in Maha & their political affiliations

Published on May 30, 2022 04:06 PM IST

The current royal rift among the father-son duo or descendants of Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj and Rajashri Shahu Maharaj has grabbed public attentio

Sambhajiraje Chhatrapati (L) and Udayanraje Bhosale interact with the media after a discussion about the Maratha reservation in Pune. (HT FILE PHOTO)
Sambhajiraje Chhatrapati (L) and Udayanraje Bhosale interact with the media after a discussion about the Maratha reservation in Pune. (HT FILE PHOTO)

PUNE The current royal rift among the father-son duo or descendants of Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj and Rajashri Shahu Maharaj has grabbed public attention. But such controversies involving royal families from Maharashtra aren’t new, and so are their political affiliations.

Every political party has encouraged their participation and benefitted. Prominent among them is Rajya Sabha MP from the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) Chhatrapati Udayanraje Bhosale, the 13th direct descendent of Shivaji Maharaj, founder of the Maratha empire nearly 450 years ago.

Udayanraje, often in the limelight for his lifestyle including his fleet of high-profile cars and SUVs, was with BJP in the 1990s. During the BJP-Sena rule from 1995-99, he served as minister of state for revenue before joining the Congress.

He then shifted loyalties to Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) as Satara went to the party during the seat-sharing formula for Lok Sabha polls between the two parties. In 2019, Udayanraje joined BJP to fight LS polls though a defeat from NCP’s Shrinivas Patil dealt him a blow. The party he was by then hobnobbing sent to RS to retain the Maratha vote bank.

Family feuds dominated Udayanraje’s political career. His uncle Abhaysinhraje was also a former minister in the Maharashtra government and a close associate of Sharad Pawar. Abhaysinhraje was with the NCP and represented Satara both in the state assembly and the Lok Sabha.

Abhaysinhraje’s son and Udayanraje’s first cousin Shivendraraje Bhosale has also been in politics from Satara. Shivendraraje was an NCP MLA till 2019 when he too changed loyalties to join BJP and was re-elected. Even as the two Bhosales – Udayanraje and Shivendraraje – are currently in BJP, they are known to be detractors due to local political compulsions.

Just as the principalities of Satara and Kolhapur became separate in 1707 because of the succession dispute over the Maratha kingship, their descendants too have been following different political paths although their political aspirations to be on the side of power have remained the same.

Sambhajiraje of Kolhapur was earlier a president-nominated member of the upper house of Parliament. In 2009, he had unsuccessfully contested Lok Sabha polls from Kolhapur on an NCP ticket.

After his RS term ended last month, Sambhajiraje had announced to contest RS polls as an independent, while seeking support from all political parties earlier this month. The row began after Shiv Sena denied support to Chhatrapati Sambhajiraje for the Rajya Sabha polls. Sambhajiraje wanted to be an independent candidate supported by all parties to be elected to the upper house of parliament. As Sambhajiraje refused Sena’s offer to officially join the party for nomination, he accused chief minister Uddhav Thackeray of betraying him.

His father Chhatrapati Shahu Maharaj, the titular head of the Kolhapur royal contradicted his son while hinting that BJP may have been behind the plot. But Shahu Maharaj’s association with Sena traces back to the 1990s.

In 1998 Shahu Chhatrapati II of Kolhapur joined the Shiv Sena after ending his association with Congress. His anther son (and Chhatrapati Sambhaji’s brother) Malojiraje entered the Maharashtra state assembly after winning elections from Kolhapur from NCP. After taking a break from politics between 2009 to 2019, he is seen taking active participation in local politics of Kolhapur Municipal Corporation.

There are the Naik-Nimbalkars who were the ‘Maika’ of Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj’s first wife, Queen Saeebai, and their descendent is Ramraje Naik-Nimbalkar, a legislator from NCP and chairman and speaker of the Maharashtra legislative council.

Ramraje’s father, a minister in the erstwhile Bombay State, the late Pratapsinh M Naik-Nimbalkar, was the son of the 25th —- and last — ruler of Phaltan kingdom, the late Major Raja Shrimant Sir Malojirao Naik-Nimbalkar. In neighbouring Madha, Ranjitsinh Naik-Nimbalkar, belonging to a branch of the Phaltan royal family was elected as Lok Sabha MP in 2019 from MP.

If democracy is a perfect level playing field bringing the rulers and the ruled on the same pedestal, Maharashtra’s erstwhile rulers may not think so. It is for the same reason they seek entry through the back door if the front door (direct polls) chooses to block their way.

For the political parties, their presence is a tool to exploit the faith people have in the royal family just as these former rulers exploit their lineage to enjoy the fruits of power.

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  • ABOUT THE AUTHOR

    Yogesh Joshi is Assistant Editor at Hindustan Times. He covers politics, security, development and human rights from Western Maharashtra.

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