In politics, where leaders in there forties and fifties are considered ‘young’, 29-year-old Aaditya Thackeray, who is contesting the Vidhan Sabha election is rather ‘tender’. In fact, his party (Shiv Sena) is projecting this suave and smart Thackeray scion as the next chief minister of Maharashtra. Aaditya’s decision to take a plunge into electoral politics has been welcomed one and by all. It is a bold move, which deviated from the family tradition of not contesting the elections. In the 53-year history of Shiv Sena, no other Thackeray has contested the polls. Bal Thackeray, his grandfather and the founder of Shiv Sena, always believed in running the ‘remote control’ government. Father Uddhav, the present Sena chief, too preferred to stay away from the elections. Even uncle Raj Thackeray, the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) chief, dragged his feet back at the eleventh hour after announcing that he will contest the assembly polls five years back.
So what made Aaditya break the long-time family custom? According to party insiders, keeping a tight rein on the party affairs by leading from the front was one of the major reasons behind this move. With the BJP juggernaut presently rolling on in the state, there was an urgent need to keep the party flock together. In last five years, the Sena had to reluctantly play second fiddle to the dominating BJP due to the fear of split in the party. “If Aaditya leads the party in the legislature as well as outside, he will have a firm hold over the party. The party MLAs will be directly under his control. This will ensure Sena to perform better,” a Sena leader said.
According to Sena leaders, Aaditya’s ‘suave boy’ image will help the party connect with young voters in the state. He will also be acceptable to the non-Maharashtrians, who form a sizeable chuck of voters in major cities. With Aaditya at the helm, the Sena expects to enhance its appeal with the non-Marathi speaking populace, along with retaining its hold over its core voters — the Marathi Manoos.
The Boy-next-door image
A product of the Bombay Scottish School in Mahim, Aaditya graduated in English Literature from St Xavier’s College and has a Law degree from K C College. A man of words, his first book of poems, “My Thoughts in Black and White” was released in 2007 by Bollywood superstar Amitabh Bachchan. The following year, he turned lyricist and released a private album Ummeed, for which he wrote all the eight songs. Those close to him, say that the Thackeray scion has a modest collection of branded watches and spectacle frames, not to forget the fleet of fancy wheels. All know his connection with tinsel town stars and efforts to pump up Mumbai’s nightlife. He wants malls and restaurants to be open 24x7. With actor-cum-fitness freak Dino Morea, Aaditya tried to start open gymnasiums in Mumbai’s open spaces. But the project was mired in controversy as, it was found to have set up without required permissions.
At such a young age, Aaditya already has few achievements to his name. A football buff, he has been the president of Mumbai District Football Association since 2017. Using his clout, he transformed the Sena-ruled BMC’s Shahajiraje Sports Complex at Andheri into a state-of-the-art football stadium, which can now host international games. He was also instrumental in making the Maharashtra government ban the single-use plastic in the state. The Centre is now planning to implement the ban on the national stage. His works with environmental activist Afroz Shah for beach-cleaning in Mumbai have also been appreciated. He has backed the green activists at Aarey. He termed the axing of trees at Aarey Colony as “shameful and disgusting” and slammed the Mumbai Metro officials in his tweet: “The vigour with which the @MumbaiMetro3 is slyly and swiftly cutting down an ecosystem in Aarey is shameful and disgusting. How about posting these officials in PoK, giving them charge to destroy terror camps rather than trees?” He questioned why the Mumbai Metro was treating Mumbaikars like criminals? “There has to be sensible and sustainable development.”
Everything seems to be rosy for soft-spoken Aaditya, who is ready to take a next big step in politics by contesting elections. However, critics say it will all come to nothing, if he fails to understand the ground reality his party faces. Sena’s voter base is Marathi Manoos, who still adores his grandfather for his exceptional connect with the common people and their issues. His politics always thrived on protecting the ‘Asmita’ (identity) of Maharashtrians in the cosmopolitan Mumbai. Critics accuse Aaditya of swashbuckling with the city’s elite and turning a blind eye towards the problems faced by the ‘aam janta’. It is now up to Aaditya to dispel that notion.