Youth first: Aaditya Thackeray contesting Maharashtra Assembly polls reflects tectonic shift in Shiv Sena's strategy

The youngest Thackeray on Monday became the first to take a plunge into electoral politics, a move that is likely to alter the political landscape of the state, as the Yuva Sena chief, Aaditya seeks to take up causes that resonate with the youth ahead of the Maharashtra Assembly election.

Natasha Trivedi October 01, 2019 18:59:02 IST
Youth first: Aaditya Thackeray contesting Maharashtra Assembly polls reflects tectonic shift in Shiv Sena's strategy
  • While Aaditya's mainstream political career is just about seven years old, the Shiv Sena's hopes are pinned on the heir apparent to be the factor that lends electoral legitimacy to the 'junior partner' NDA alliance

  • Notably, the incumbent MLA Sunil Shinde, who won the constituency in 2014 by defeating the then-NCP candidate Sachin Ahir by a margin of almost double the votes, will be required to vacate the seat

  • However, the deeply hierarchical framework of the party is reflected in Shinde's endorsement of Aaditya as a candidate from the Worli constituency

Twenty-nine-year-old Aaditya Thackeray will be the youngest and the first Thackeray in the family to take a plunge into electoral politics, a move that is likely to alter the political landscape of the state, experts feel. The Yuva Sena chief is prompt to take up causes that resonate with the youth ahead of the Maharashtra Assembly election, however, the extent of the alteration remains to be seen.

Almost nine years to the day that he was inducted into the Shiv Sena by the former party supremo Bal Thackeray, Aaditya announced his candidacy from the Worli constituency in Mumbai on Monday. In October 2010, Thackeray named him as the head of the party's newly-created youth wing after his successful campaign in getting Rohinton Mistry's book 'Such a long journey' banned from the BA syllabus of the Mumbai University because it contained "offensive passages" about the party.

Aaditya is being projected as the party's pick for the post of deputy chief minister, if the BJP-Shiv Sena alliance returns to power for a second consecutive term. The Election Commission announced that Maharashtra Assembly elections will be held on 21 October. Apart from being a critic of the Maharashtra government under Devendra Fadnavis  for its decision to build a car shed for the Mumbai Metro line three in the city's "green lung", the Aarey milk colony, Aaditya has been committed to improve the nightlife for the youth in the city.

In 2015, after the Fadnavis government approved the proposal to extend night deadline to 1.30 am, Aadtiya tweeted:

Speaking about the Aarey colony at the India Today Conclave in September, Aaditya said, "It's about the ecosystem not about victories." The two saffron parties have been sparring with each other over the issue as the long-drawn negotiations for the seat-sharing arrangement got underway.

While Aaditya's mainstream political career is just about seven years old, the Shiv Sena's hopes are pinned on the heir apparent to be the factor that lends electoral legitimacy to the "junior partner" in the NDA alliance. "The Shiv Sena's strategy behind Aaditya Thackerayji's candidature is simple — to field the most prominent face of the party among the younger generations, the one who is bound to pull in the most votes," incumbent Shiv Sena MLA from Worli, Sunil Shinde told Firstpost.

Notably, Shinde, who won the constituency in 2014 by defeating the then-National Congress Party (NCP) candidate Sachin Ahir by a margin of almost double the votes, will be required to vacate the seat for Aaditya. However, the deeply hierarchical framework of the party is reflected in Shinde's endorsement of Aaditya as a candidate from the Worli constituency.

Shiv Sena leader Anil Parab said that local party cadres want Aaditya to contest from Worli Assembly constituency. "...a meeting of party workers was held in Worli for the preparation for Assembly polls. Leaders including Sachin Ahir, (incumbent) MLA Sunil Shinde and workers from Worli area demanded that Aadityaji contest from there," Parab told reporters in September.

Youth first Aaditya Thackeray contesting Maharashtra Assembly polls reflects tectonic shift in Shiv Senas strategy

File image of Aaditya and Uddhav Thackeray. PTI

Parab lay emphasis on the fact that Uddhav alone would make the decision on the list of the party's candidates and the announcement of the same. "If Uddhav saheb agrees (to field Aaditya from the constituency), then it will be the responsibility of Sena workers to ensure that opposition candidates forfeit their deposits (against Aaditya)," Parab added.

"As an MLA, Aadityaji will be able to work for the causes of the youth in Mumbai whether it is in the field of education, health, or the environment," Shinde added, saying that the electorate in the Worli constituency was "very happy" with the work Aaditya had done so far. The decision to field Aaditya from the Worli constituency is likely to have been supported by the fact that the incumbent MP from the Mumbai South constituency, under which the Worli Assembly segment falls, is Shiv Sena's Arvind Sawant.

Sawant, who was inducted into the new Narendra Modi cabinet recently, is one of the closest aides of chief Uddhav. He also defeated Congress' Milind Deora for the second time in the general elections, bagging South Mumbai again, despite the tacit support of MNS chief Raj Thackeray. Sawant's presence is likely to be a significant factor in making it a "safe" seat for Aaditya to win.

"Worli is considered one of the safest constituencies for the Sena, hence Aaditya's candidature has been finalised. Former NCP leader Sachin Ahir had recently joined the Sena, which will make Thackeray's win easy," a Sena source was quoted by PTI as saying. Ahir had unsuccessfully contested the 2014 Assembly election against Shinde.

Analysts, however, have said that the choice for the Worli constituency is "interesting" as "parts of the constituency also saw the birth of the role of the North Indians in Mumbai politics," The Hindu quoted Dhaval Kulkarni, author of the well-regarded book The Cousins Thackeray: Uddhav, Raj and the Shadow of their Senas, as saying.

"The current constituency has BDD chawls, slums and an equal number of Marathi and non-Marathi speaking voters, apart from the glitter of the Worli sea face," the report said. It further quoted Kulkarni as saying, "It reflects the changes in the Sena too." Several reports suggested that Sena members wanted to project Aaditya as the chief ministerial face if the party bags the highest number of seats in the next month's Assembly polls. Recently, Uddhav recalled the "promise" he had made to the party's patriarch to install a 'Shiv Sainik' (party worker) as the chief minister of Maharashtra.

"Even as the Shiv Sena decided to join the BJP government, the junior Thackeray was known to use his remote control to get his pet projects and ideas implemented by the administration. The plastic ban in the state in 2018 was his brainchild. Aaditya is also said to have been instrumental in altering Sena’s stand on the celebration of Valentine’s Day, where earlier it hounded people celebrating it," The Indian Express noted.

In July, Aaditya launched a state-wide 'Jan Ashirwad Yatra' to thank the electorate for their support in the last Lok Sabha polls and to seek their backing for the upcoming Assembly elections. In the 2014 Assembly elections, the BJP and the Sena had contested separately over a dispute over sharing of seats. The BJP won maximum 122 out of 260 seats it had contested while the Sena bagged 63 out of 282 seats.

Only time will tell how the electorate reacts to Aaditya on the ballot, but for now it is amply clear that Sena, who has been at loggerheads with ruling BJP (on national and state level), is making serious efforts to ensure that, if need be, they have enough leverage over the BJP after the polls are concluded. Keeping in mind the criticism BJP is facing currently, Sena likely thinks it will be most opportune if the party focusses on being an organisation that the youth relate to.

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