Another Tiger Learning to Roar: Decoding Aaditya Thackeray, the New-Age Shiv Sainik
It is bound to surprise you when you meet a suave, intelligent Aaditya Thackeray holding the fort on issues as varied as environment, economics and communal polarisation.
Aditya Thackeray (Twitter/@AUThackeray)
The name Shiv Sena has usually been associated with the anti-North Indian agitation in Mumbai, or the perceived bias against minorities in several parts of Maharashtra. “Sainiks as thugs” is how a large part of the narrative has been around the oldest ally of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).
So, it is bound to surprise you when you meet a suave, intelligent Aaditya Thackeray holding the fort on issues as varied as environment, economics and communal polarisation. Busy with his Jan Ashirwad Yatra, the clear sense one gets on interacting with the young Thackeray is that he wants to change the identity of his party.
“The Sena has been a victim of perceptions. We didn’t really engage with the media the way we should have. We do have several Dubeys, Chaubeys and Tiwaris in senior party positions. How can we be anti-North Indians,” he asked when quizzed about how he was planning to change his party’s identity. Author Shobha De, of course, has used many colourful expletives to describe her run-ins with the Sena but Aaditya prefers to look ahead.
His stand on the Aarey Metro project has won him support of many environmentalists across the country. Those who would oppose the Sena for its plain regional chauvinistic politics are seen singing praises of Aaditya for holding onto his own position against the BJP. “It’s not just about cutting down of trees in Aarey project. It’s also about the loss of wildlife, the loss of tribals who live in those areas. The chief minister has been clearly misled by his advisers,” he said.
So much so that the third generation of the Thackeray family makes no bones about his unease with the emergence of one dominant party across India. “At this stage, it suits all of us. We are happy that the Congress-NCP is in such a poor position. But from a long-term political view, it’s important to have a strong opposition,” he added.
When quizzed on the Centre’s handling of the economy, Aaditya said: “Look, the economy is clearly in a state of slowdown. We can’t just deny that. Wherever I go, people are pointing out that your government has not delivered on the promises it made. Even farm loan waivers haven’t been received by all. The demonetisation effect is clearly visible.”
What the politician from St Xavier’s College brings to the table is an openness to engage with his critics. His grandfather never shied away from having a glass of wine in course of TV interviews, much like Lalu Prasad doing interviews in his ‘gaushalas’. Aaditya matches that with a sincerity to change the image of the Sena — whether it’s the plan to evolve Mumbai’s nightlife, the Shiv ‘Vada Paav’ centres across the city or even thinking in terms of better educational infrastructure.
So is Aaditya the “inevitable CM candidate” for his party? Well, he is in no hurry. “People welcome me at public rallies as the future chief minister. When that happens is dependent on people’s wishes. I am happy to work for their welfare.”
Well, watch out as another tiger is learning to roar.
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