Is Aaditya Thackeray emerging as the new face of Shiv Sena?
From promoting the ban on plastic to insisting on 24x7 nightlife in Mumbai and doing away with its strong opposition to the `influence of western culture’ such as celebrating Valentine’s Day, the Shiv Sena is slowly changing its image.
The credit for it goes to Aaditya Thackeray, elder son of Shiv Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray and chief of party’s youth wing – Yuva Sena.
Aaditya represents the third generation of the Thackeray family in politics and is already seen in the party as a face that can draw young voters.
The Sena, which fed its cadre a steady diet of ‘rada’ or street-fighting politics, diluted that image ever since Uddhav Thackeray took over its reins. Now, it is trying to be an urban, youth-friendly party as Aaditya emerges as one of its key leaders.
According to Sena leaders, the new generation of voters in urban cities have newer aspirations and hence, would not strike a chord with the old guard of the party.
“The younger voters need somebody who they can relate to. They will not connect with the politics of violence and agitation. Therefore, the task before the Thackeray scion is to connect with the new generation while keeping the values of the party in mind,” said a senior Sena leader requesting anonymity.
As a 20-year-old, Aaditya took over as chief of the newly formed youth wing of the Sena – Yuva Sena, in October 2010.
Soon, the incidents of vandalism and misbehaving with couples on Valentines’ Day stopped. Since then, Aaditya, now 27, has taken up several issues in order to connect with the younger generation.
In 2015, he proposed the 24x7 nightlife for Mumbai. Recently, he took a pro-environment stand and opposed several plans that could result in chopping of trees or reduction of green cover. He had also proposed a ban on plastic, which is in force in the state now.
Sena leaders said that the party has consciously changed the image to make him the face of the party for the urban youth.
Aaditya has been active on social media and has used the platform to target the Bharatiya Janata Party-led state and central government. He has picked up several issues and criticised the state government, including chief minister Devendra Fadnavis on many occasions.
Political analyst Prakash Bal said that the recent win by the Yuva Sena under the leadership of Aaditya in the Mumbai University senate elections is one of the “concrete” achievements.
Another political analyst Deepak Pawar said, “The ‘rada’ phase of Sena almost vanished after Uddhav took over. Aaditya can be used as a face, which represents the younger generation, but there is a challenge for him as he will have difficulties in connecting with the other end of the spectrum.”