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Sena's Suryayaan: In Aaditya's Electoral Debut, a Thackeray Dare for the BJP

Sena's Suryayaan: In Aaditya's Electoral Debut, a Thackeray Dare for the BJP

Aaditya’s foray in electoral politics is a departure from the party’s belief that a Thackeray does not contest polls. Neither Balasaheb Thackeray nor Uddhav Thackeray nor cousin Raj Thackeray ever fought an election.

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Vinaya Deshpande

Mumbai: “If you all allow me, I declare, with the blessings of Shivaji Maharaj, of my grandparents, of my parents, that I will contest the elections.” With these words, Aaditya Thackeray declared his electoral debut in a packed auditorium at Lala Lajpatrai College to loud cheers from the ecstatic crowds.

Shiv Sena leaders described it as a historic moment. After all, this is the first time in the party’s 63-year history, that a Thackeray has ditched the remote control to flex his muscles in the electoral battlefield. The amply cautious Shiv Sena not only chose a safe seat for the scion, but had also eliminated all competition months ago by acquiring NCP’s key leader in Worli and ex-MLA, Sachin Ahir.

Aaditya’s foray in electoral politics, though not a new announcement, is important in more ways than one. First, it is a departure from the party’s belief that a Thackeray does not contest polls. Neither Balasaheb Thackeray nor Uddhav Thackeray nor cousin Raj Thackeray ever fought an election.

The Thackeray family has always been seen to be above electoral politics. “But to make history, some traditions have to be broken. The Chandrayaan did not succeed. But our Suryayaan (Aditya means Sun) will successfully land on the sixth floor of Mantralay after October 21,” Sena’s Sanjay Raut said. The sixth floor is where the Chief Minister of the state sits in the Secretariat.

But Raut’s words were also an admission of the party’s reduced clout. “We have to bring our glory back. The politics of Maharashtra should soon start revolving around Matoshree again,” he said, recalling the days when no BJP leader would take any decision without visiting Balasaheb at Matoshree.

For Raut today, it was a rare candid admission that things had changed drastically for the saffron party in Maharashtra’s political scene.

Till a few years ago, the Shiv Sena was the elder brother in the alliance. In fact, Balasaheb Thackeray is known to have pejoratively referred to the BJP as ‘Kamli’. “Even if I show her the door, she will keep staring at me from the window,” he is known to have said once.

Balasaheb Thackeray’s penchant for below-the-belt comments was known and enjoyed by many in Maharashtra. The unsaid understanding between the two parties then was that the Shiv Sena would look after Mumbai and coastal Maharashtra, while the BJP would look after the rest of the state. Eventually, this mistake would cost the Sena dear.

Now, the BJP has almost double the seat-share than the Shiv Sena in the Assembly. Despite being in power together, the Sena has acted more like an opposition party in the last five years. This has created a negative sentiment against the party among many BJP leaders. Today, the Sena isn’t in a position to negotiate a favourable seat-sharing arrangement for itself. The BJP wants to drag the Shiv Sena’s share from 124 to 117, some leaders say.

But on the day Aaditya Thackeray formally announced his decision to fight the upcoming Vidhan Sabha elections from Worli, the mood was upbeat. “Look at the mahaul today. It looks like some day, Trump will invite us to his campaign. We will also say 'Howdy, Adi',” Raut said in a reference to the recently held ‘Howdy, Modi’ event in the US.

Striking a confrontational tone, Raut said, “It is the people of Maharashtra who are pushing you to fulfil Balasaheb's dreams. You have to give voice to the voiceless. They are troubled due to economic slowdown. You have to lead them from the sixth floor of the Mantralay.”

On his part, Aaditya spoke of his purpose in politics and that he could not have done anything else in life. “I used to travel with my grandfather and with my father as a child. If you have to do something good for society, politics is the way. I have been thinking of my journey for the last five years. We did several agitations. How to serve Maharashtra better Shiv Sena style? I have always thought, I should join my party legislators,” he said.

It was earlier being speculated that Aaditya may be fielded from either Sewri or Worli. Both constituencies have been Sena strongholds for years. That Worli was the preferred choice was clear when the party coaxed Sachin Ahir to join its ranks. Ahir, a former NCP leader, was Sena’s arch-rival in Worli constituency.

Worli had been with the Sena since 1990 and was wrestled by Ahir in 2009 in a closely contested match. With its traditional vote-bank, party cadre secure and with the addition of Ahir’s strength to the Sena, the party is confident that Aaditya will win by a thumping margin of 1 lakh votes. It is likely that the NCP will leave the seat for other allies.


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