Uddhav Thackeray: Reluctant politician who is all set to become Maharashtra CM

Shiv Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray, 58, is all set to be sworn in as the next chief minister of Maharashtra. Once a reluctant politician, whose family traditionally held the keys to power of governments and civic administrations through proxies, Thackeray will become the first of his line to hold a constitutional post.

Analysts say, Thackeray’s move may have been prompted by the fact that the Sena has been losing ground to the BJP in the state, and this could be one way to arrest the slide.

Interestingly, Thackeray will become the CM with the support of two of his party’s traditional rivals, the Nationalist Congress Party headed by Sharad Pawar, an old friend of the family, and the Congress, headed by Sonia Gandhi who needed convincing that supporting the Sena would not harm her party’s secular credentials.

“A wide-angle camera would be needed to capture the gathering,” said Uddhav as he addressed the 162 legislators of the three parties on Monday in Mumbai. “We believe in Satyameva Jayate. We dare anyone to try and break us,” said the Shiv Sena chief.
The youngest of Meenatai and Bal Thackeray’s three children, Uddhav was a late entrant into politics. His estranged cousin and MNS chief Raj Thackeray as originally seen as Bal Thackeray’s political heir. Primarily interested in wildlife photography, Thackeray’s first brush with politics was in 1985 when the party came to power in the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC).

A graduate from the prestigious JJ Institute of Applied Art, Thackeray was involved in the campaign but his formal entry in the politics was in 1990 when he attended a party event in Mumbai. That was a full two years after his father had appointed Raj Thackeray as the youth wing chief of the party in 1988.

The rivalry between the two grew from the mid-1990s. Thackeray was appointed the working president in January 2003. Ironically, the motion for his appointment was moved by Raj Thackeray to prevent any backlash from the latter’s supporters. The Sena chief had to fight several internal battles including with his cousin , who eventually split the party in 2005.

Though, he does not have the oratory skills and the charm of his father or cousin, Thackeray is seen a shrewd politician. He consolidated his position within the party by meeting regularly with local party workers and creating a fresh set of loyalists around him, even as he continued to seek the guidance of some party veterans.

After the death of Bal Thackeray in 2012, murmurs grew within the party that the mild mannered Thackeray would not be able to lead the party. Over the years, though, Thackeray had proved everyone wrong. He has managed to deal with tough challenges including the ascent of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

In 2014, riding on the Modi wave that had brought it to power in the Lok Sabha elections, the BJP snapped its long-standing alliance with the Sena ahead of that year’s assembly polls. This was Thackeray’s first major electoral challenge. At the height of the Modi wave, the Sena managed to win 63 seats, which was an increase of 21 seats as compared to the 2009 polls. However realising that the need for keeping his flock together was bigger than taking a principled stand, he joined the BJP government even though his party felt it was given a raw deal. In 2019 too, ahead of the Lok Sabha polls, Thackeray chose to partner with the BJP, but claimed that this was a more equal alliance.

After the assembly elections, with the alliance securing enough seats to form a government, Thackeray insisted on a rotational chief ministership. When the BJP flatly refused the same, Uddhav got in touch with its rivals, the Congress and the NCP to form an alternative government.

After a bruising battle to form the government, Thackeray is now on the cusp of becoming CM of the state, although this would mean leading an alliance of three parties and leading a cabinet full of political heavyweights from Congress and NCP.

If that isn’t challenge enough, he also has to grow his party.

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