Some people are born great; some achieve greatness and some have greatness thrust upon them. Uddhav Thackeray is a firm card-carrying member of the third category. Son of the charismatic Bal Thackeray, Uddhav probably never had space to grow into being his own person while at the same time his professional career was a bygone conclusion. Much like the other definite member of the “some have greatness thrust upon them” party, Rajiv Gandhi, Uddhav didn’t show any early political promise. Both, Rajiv and Uddhav, had tried to steer clear of politics without success against their charted destiny.
Rise and Plunge into Politics
Uddhav had chosen to immerse himself into Saamna, a Marathi language tabloid started by his father and widely known to be the Shiv Sena mouthpiece. (Saamna is extremely popular and widely read by the bourgeois and the blue-collared workers in Bombay.) Born into a political family, Uddhav naturally was roped in for campaigning also. Clearly an industrious worker, he did well during the campaigning and the 2002 elections when Shiv Sena won the corporation elections. Armchair psychology says that his hard work in the campaigns stemmed from a long unfulfilled need for his father’s approval and attention. And he did get the attention. To his own detriment.
Uddhav, rather a shrinking violet, would have most likely have preferred to spend his life out of the spotlight and behind the scene. His profession of choice would probably have been photography. (Once he famously hired a helicopter and flew over Bombay and the rest of Maharashtra taking pictures from a bird’s eye view seldom available to even the best photographers in the city.) Instead, he was crowned his father’s successor as the leader of Shiv Sena. Choosing the rather lacklustre Uddhav over his dynamic and politically ambitious nephew Raj Thackeray was a stunning move by Bal Thackeray. It led to Raj leaving Shiv Sena and forming his own party. It also led to quite a few Shiv Sena members and workers choosing Raj and his party, Maharastra Navnirman Sena (MNS), over Shiv Sena. And finally, it led to a rupture in the Shiv Sena vote bank.
Not quite a Raj Thackeray
Though accepted as the leader-in-waiting, Uddhav never managed to inspire Shiv Sena-ites. Bal Thackeray remained the roaring tiger of the party through his life and Raj Thackeray with his MNS became the roaring-tiger-in-making successfully treading the same path that Bal Thackeray had when building and establishing Shiv Sena. Uddhav remained the soft spoken son. While Raj spews fire and brimstone appealing to the emotional quotient of Maharastrians with his Marathi manoos call, Uddhav’s criticism of the Aam Aadmi Party is largely glossed over. While Raj endorses and applauds Modi’s candidature as future Prime Minister, Uddhav’s statement about Shiv Sena’s conditional support to BJP seems lame. (Note that for years now BJP and Shiv Sena have been partners in Maharashtra. However, it is possible that this time round BJP may also connect with MNS.)
There is Still Hope?
Uddhav isn’t the leader that the hotheaded hardliners of Shiv Sena would gladly follow. Luckily for him, Shiv Sena is a very well-established and well-entrenched party in Maharashtra. The hope for Sena-ites is now Uddhav’s son, the 23-year-old Aditya Thackeray who is showing signs of growing into the dynastic stripes. Aditya heads the recently created Yuva Sena. He first drew attention by criticizing the close-down hour of eateries in Mumbai. He has also taken a stand against the celebration curfew hour in the city. In both instances, Aditya appeals to the youngsters in Mumbai – his future voters. He is also taking on the establishment and trying to change the old fogey narrow-minded perception of Shiv Sena. How this turns out remains to be seen.
While waiting for the future, Uddhav is doing a fairly decent job of being a caretaker leader (more manager than leader) of Shiv Sena. Election 2014 will be Uddhav’s litmus test – the first time that Shiv Sena will contest elections bereft of their tiger.
By Sujata Garimella