Who is Champa Singh Thapa, Bal Thackeray’s Man Friday, who joined Eknath Shinde’s camp?

Hailing from Nepal, Champa Singh Thapa loyally served Bal Thackeray for 27 years — from giving the patriarch morning tea to attending to his phone calls. With his switch to the ‘other’ Sena faction, he has dealt a massive blow to Uddhav Thackeray

FP Explainers September 27, 2022 12:11:54 IST
Who is Champa Singh Thapa, Bal Thackeray’s Man Friday, who joined Eknath Shinde’s camp?

Champa Singh Thapa, close to Balasaheb Thackeray, was welcomed into the Eknath Shinde group in Thane’s Tembhi Naka area. Image Courtesy: @mieknathshinde/Twitter

The Thackeray family can’t catch a break. After losing power in Maharashtra to one-time loyalist Eknath Shinde, the Thackeray clan received another setback on Monday when two aides, who served the family patriarch Bal Thackeray for nearly three decades, jumped ship.

Champa Singh Thapa and Moreshwar Raje, who had served former Shiv Sena chief Bal Thackeray at his residence Matoshree for years, joined Maharashtra chief minister Eknath Shinde’s faction of the Shiv Sena on Monday.

The two aides were inducted into the Eknath Shinde group with offerings of shawls in Thane’s Tembhi Naka area. Chief Minister Eknath Shinde speaking at the event said that the joining of Thapa and Raje, who were like shadows of Bal Thackeray, had added to the pleasant atmosphere of festivities.

When asked why they were switching sides after years of loyal service, Champa Singh Thapa said he sided with Shinde because the chief minister followed Balasaheb’s ideology.

Thapa was quoted by Indian Express as saying, “I don’t know about their ideology, but I felt that I should join Shinde saheb, so I came here and joined him.”

Loyal to Bal Thackeray

Champa Singh Thapa has been a loyal and trusted aide of the Sena patriarch, who helped him in his daily chores since 1985.

The man from west Nepal, Thapa — as he is called by reverential Shiv Sainiks — joined the Thackeray residence after he was spotted by Thackeray’s son Jaidev, who asked him whether he would like to work for Bal Thackeray.

At 21, he dedicated his life to serving the Thackeray patriarch — from serving him his favourite tea in the morning, attend to his phone calls, pass on messages and continue all of it until he went to sleep at night.

While in service of Bal Thackeray, he would take leaves for only 15-20 days in a stretch of two years. “Only on rare occasions would I go on a month-long leave,” he has been quoted as saying in the past.

Speaking to mid-day once, Thapa recounts how after Maasaheb’s death in 1995, it was him who took care of the senior Thackeray completely.

Thapa was so close to the Thackeray patriarch that he could be seen standing humbly behind Balasaheb’s seat during public meetings including Dussehra gatherings. He was also seen with Thackeray at every occasion.

Thapa said that working with Bal Thackeray earned him ‘izzat’ in Mumbai and that when he would go out people would touch his feet saying that he have served Balasaheb. “Getting so much respect from the public makes me proud and I often cry. For me, Saheb was nothing less than a bhagwan,” Thapa told mid-day in the past.

When Bal Thackeray passed away in 2012, Uddhav Thackeray acknowledged his service by keeping Thapa by his side while performing the last rites.

He had said then that ‘Saheb’s’ one regret was what happened with Raj Thackeray. “It’s true that Saheb wanted both the brothers to come together,” said Thapa about the rift between the two cousins.

After the demise too, Thapa continued to serve the Thackeray family and lived in Matoshree, which called his permanent residence. After all, the senior Thackeray himself had asked him never to leave the house.

A blow to Uddhav

How much does Thapa’s switch to the Eknath Shinde camp hurt Uddhav Thackeray? From a political standpoint: not at all.

Thapa wasn’t part of the politics of the Sena and he never vied for a political post even while he served with the senior Thackeray. However, Thapa started the Shiv Sena in Nepal along with a few friends.

But political analysts point out that Thapa’s defection is a symbolic win for Shinde camp. As one analyst told Indian Express, “With this, the Shinde camp would be able to show that even Balasaheb’s closest person has joined them by leaving Uddhav Thackeray.”

The Shinde faction has been growing in strength and earned support from many who were perceived close to the Thackeray family.

In July, Smita Thackeray, former wife of Bal Thackeray’s son Jaidev, became the first member of the Thackeray family to visit and congratulate Shinde. The meeting had come amid the cut-throat contest between the rebel Sena camp led by Shinde, and the Uddhav Thackeray-led party, for the title of the “real” Shiv Sena.

After the meeting, Smita had told reporters that the visit was a “courtesy call” since Shinde, a long-time Shiv Sainik, is now the chief minister.

Later, Nihar Thackeray, son of late Bindumadhav Thackeray, the eldest son of Sena founder Bal Thackeray and nephew of Shiv Sena president Uddhav Thackeray, also met Eknath Shinde and pledged his support to the new chief minister.

With inputs from agencies

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