From Peshwas to Pawars, the ‘cha-cha-cha’ of uncle-nephew politics not new to Maharashtra
Even as the current political drama about Ajit Pawar’s rebellion against the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) and party chief Sharad Pawar has gripped the state, troubled uncle-nephew relationships have rocked the boat of more than one party in Maharashra in the past. The state has seen many a family split due to such rivalries.
Among the prominent families in Maharashtra wherein the mentor-protege equation of uncles with their nephews slipped into unpleasant territory in the struggle for power, include the Thackerays, Mundes and the Tatkares.
While these are recent examples, even the Peshwas of the 1700s could not escape this situation. The most brutal feud resulted into the cold blooded murder of the ninth Peshwa Narayanrao by his uncle Raghunathrao in a bid to seize the throne. The cries of help of Narayanrao, Kaka Mala Vachwa (Uncle, save me!), still echo across Pune and Maharashtra.
In recent political history, prominent examples of uncle-nephew conflicts are Bal Thackeray and Raj Thackeray; Gopinath Munde and Dhananjay Munde; Chhagan Bhujbal and Pankaj Bhujbal; Sunit Tatkare and Avadhut Tatkare.
Socialist leader and political observer Kumar Saptarshi, says, “Politics is a game where family members fight against their own blood in order to seize power. Even in the Mahabharat (Hindu mythological script) the same thing happened between uncles and a nephews (feud between father of the Kauravas and Pandavas). But in the Sharad Pawar and Ajit Pawar conflict, I do not think that the family will split even though there are differences.”
The difference of opinion between Uddhav and Raj Thackeray over leadership, led to Raj splitting from the family and starting his own Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) party.
Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader Gopinath Munde and MLA Dhananjay Munde were not immune to this problem and Dhananjay left uncle Gopinath to join hands with Sharad Pawar of the NCP. Munde had blamed Pawar for splitting his family.
Recently during the election, NCP leader Sunil Tatkare’s nephew Avadhut left his uncle’s side and joined the Shiv Sena.
The same cold war is brewing between NCP leader Chhagan Bhujbal and his nephew Sameer Bhujbal. When Chhagan Bhujbal was in jail, he did not meet Pankaj and stories of rift started emerging.
The Thackerays (2006) -Shiv Sena
The tussle for power in the Thackeray clan arose when Bal Thackeray decided to choose son over nephew, on who would lead the Shiv Sena after him. Raj Thackeray, who was tipped to inherit the legacy of his uncle, was miffed with the decision and went on to form his own party the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena in 2006. MNS inflicted heavy damage to the Shiv Sena in the early years and cost it dearly in the 2009 parliamentary and assembly polls.
The Mundes (2013) - BJP
Dhananjay Munde was the right hand man of the late Gopinath Munde. He even used to take care of Munde’s homeground in Beed district, but Dhananjay left his side in 2013 and joined the Nationalist Congress Party. Reason? Dhananjay said that his uncle sidelined him to give his own, daughter Pankaja Munde, a chance.
Tatkares (2019) - NCP
Sunit Tatkare is one of the prominent leaders of NCP and a close associate of Ajit Pawar. He was party’s state unit president and has held many portfolios in the Maharashtra cabinet. Owing to strong political differences, Avdhut Tatkare has decided to snap ties with his uncle and the party. Before the assembly elections in 2019, his nephew Avadhut Tatkare left the NCP and joined the Shiv Sena. Sources said that Sunil Tatkare wanted his daughter Aditi to contest from the Shrivardhan assembly seat and this is what led to the friction.
Pawars (2019) - NCP
Sharad Pawar groomed Ajit Pawar ever since his father, Anant Rao, died. To avoid instances of friction within the party, Sharad Pawar even made a clear division that his daughter Supriya Sule would be involved in national politics and Ajit Pawar would take care of state politics. The conflict between the uncle and nephew started in the recent Lok Sabha elections when Ajit Pawar strongly batted for contesting his son Parth from the Maval Lok Sabha constituency. Before the assembly elections too, Ajit had suddenly resigned as a MLA without giving any notice to Pawar.