New Delhi: At a rally last month, Shiv Sena leader Sanjay Raut said, "Chandrayaan-2 could not reach the moon due to technical glitches, but our 'Suryayaan' (sun lander) will land on the sixth floor of the Mantralaya."
The Rajya Sabha MP was referring to his party's plan for Aaditya Thackeray (Aaditya is another name for 'sun'), the grandson of Bal Thackeray who founded the Sena.
The statement made clear at least one thing — that Aaditya would settle for nothing less than the post of the Maharashtra chief minister (the sixth floor of the Secretariat in Mumbai houses the chief minister's office) whenever an opportune moment presented itself.
Without mincing words, Aaditya himself told a news channel in an interview, "We will soon see a Shiv Sena chief minister. For now, I will serve the state as the people expect me to."
Although such statements may be seen as attempts to keep the morale of the workers high when, for the first time, the Shiv Sena has been reduced to the role of the "smaller brother" in the state. At a joint press conference with Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray, Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra recently said that the BJP would field its candidates on more than 150 seats and the Sena on 124 constituencies.
That all is not well between the 25-year-old allies is clear from infighting in seats like Kankavali, where the BJP’s Nitesh Rane is contesting against Sena nominee Satish Sawant.
Aaditya filed his nomination from Mumbai's Worli seat, becoming the first from the Thackeray family to directly enter mainstream politics. He did so at an age of 29.
The Thackeray scion has been leading an interesting campaign in his constituency, distributing pamphlets and putting up signboards greeting locals with "How are you Worli?" in five different languages — Marathi, English, Gujarati, Hindi and Urdu.
According to sources, the Sena has bargained with the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) for a "walkover" to ensure Aaditya’s easy entry into the Assembly. Sources told News18 that Raut had personally met NCP chief Sharad Pawar to discuss the matter.
Such "walkovers" are not unheard of in Maharashtra’s politics. The NCP was reportedly the beneficiary of one such political manoeuvere when Pawar's daughter, Supriya Sule, managed an easy victory in her first electoral battle in 2006, thanks largely to Bal Thackeray who had said he was proud that Maharashtra's daughter was going to Delhi.
Having entered direct politics, Aaditya carries on himself the hopes of not just easily entering the Assembly but of also helping his party fare well on its allotted seats.
Given that the Sena is fighting on fewer seats than the BJP for the first time in the Assembly polls, it will be imperative on the young Thackeray to retain as many seats as possible to maintain heft in state politics. Three years from now, the elections for the cash-rich Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC), which is considered the seat of the Sena's financial muscle, will witness a face-off between both the parties.