From a reluctant politician and enthusiastic photographer to Maharashtra Chief Minister, fifty-nine year old Uddhav Thackeray has come a long way. All his life Bal Thackeray extolled authoritarian rule and ridiculed democracy and dynastic politics, ironically, his son is going to head a democratically elected government.
Sena insiders say that Uddhav was never keen to take part in active politics of Shiv Sena, the party which his father founded in 1966. Uddhav’s cousin brother Raj Thackeray was Bal Thackeray’s lieutenant in the Sena and the party cadre expected that Raj would take over reins of the party after Bal Thackeray.
But the group of Sena leaders and Bal Thackeray himself was keen that Uddhav should be active in the party. The tussle between cousins worried Bal Thackeray. Many times he publicly announced that he would leave politics to keep families intact. But, politics never left Thackerays. In 2003, Bal Thackeray, appointed Uddhav as Executive President of the party. Riled Raj Thackeray parted his ways from the party and the family and formed Maharashtra Navnirman Sena in 2006.
Questions were raised about Uddhav’s capacity to lead the party and many leaders, including founding members like Narayan Rane left Sena questioning Uddhav’s leadership. The major blow came to the party when Bal Thackeray died of old age in 2012.
Unlike his maverick firebrand father and cousin brother, Uddhav is cool and composed. Sena leaders admit that initially party cadre found it hard to digest his style of leadership. Despite all ridicules and political attacks, Uddhav slowly but steadily gained control over the party and since 2012 he has managed to keep the party’s graph ascending. Most importantly, he has managed to keep the Mumbai civic body under party's control. With more than Rs 30,000 crore annual budget, the Mumbai civic body is key to Shiv Sena's political lifeline. Since 1985, Sena has won Mumbai civic elections and after Bal Thackeray, Uddhav showed his power in Mumbai by keeping the party flag high on the civic body.
BJP was Sena’s alliance since 1989. For the first time in October 2014 Assembly elections, Uddhav decided to break the alliance and fight the Assembly elections. But Sena and BJP joined hands after the elections as both failed to get the majority on their own. In 2019, Assembly elections, BJP and Sena formed an alliance, but after the elections Sena decided to part ways as BJP was not ready to share the post of CM with Sena. Uddhav has been saying that BJP is trying to eat into the Shiv Sena’s vote base and end Sena’s dominance in Maharashtra politics.
Today, he has taken a major step to form an alliance with the parties which he and his father have fought for decades. At the same time he has also challenged PM Narendra Modi and Amit Shah’s politics. Shiv Sena is confident that Bal Thackeray's charisma will help Uddhav and party to sustain and survive. His challenge is not only to face stiff opposition from the bitter BJP camp, but also to run the government with NCP and Congress - the veteran players in the power game. Helping Uddhav in his battle is his son Aditya who is MLA from Worli constituency in Mumbai.
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