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Raj Thackeray: Of shattered ambitions and relations

December 03, 2005 17:41 IST

Like father like son. In the case of Swararaj Shrikant Thackeray alias Raj Thackeray, it is like uncle like nephew. Shiv Sena chief Balasaheb Thackeray's 39-year-old nephew is definitely a chip off the old block.
Raj, who as a child spent more time at Balasaheb's house in Bandra than at his musician father's house in Shivaji Park, began his career as a cartoonist. To hear him speak is to hear a younger Balasaheb with a lot of fire in the belly.
In contrast, cousin and now bitter rival Uddhav, is an introvert though equally talented. Unlike Raj and Balasaheb's hands-on, gut-feel approach to politics, Uddhav prefers to plan his moves in advance.

Images: Raj Thackeray - Tiger cub

Many do not know that Raj and Uddhav are not only cousins on the paternal side but also on the maternal side. Raj's mother Kundatai and Uddhav's mother Meenatai were sisters. And it was Balasaheb who launched Raj's political career.
The root of the cousins' fallout is Balasaheb's perceptible tilt in favour of Uddhav.
Raj tasted his first political success during the 1990 assembly election campaign, when he accompanied Balasheb. That was the first time Maharashtra saw Raj's charisma and crowd-pulling abilities. His speeches were full of humour, his knock-out punches delectable to a crowd used to long-winded Congress diatribes.
In the 1995 elections, Raj was given the responsibility of designing the Sena's campaign, while Uddhav contributed to the strategy sparingly. However, within two years of the Bharatiya Janata Party-Shiv Sena combine coming to power, Balasheb lost his wife and eldest son and started depending heavily on Uddhav.

Shiv Sena's own Mahabharat

This was when Raj decided to stay out of the political limelight for a while against the backdrop of the Ramesh Kini murder case. Raj allegedly helped the murderers in the cover-up operation by using the state machinery. It took two years for the CBI to give him a clean chit, but by then Uddhav had established a firm grip on the party and developed a taste for political power.
This was when the seeds of suspicion, jealousy and animosity between the once inseparable duo of Dadu (Uddhav) and Sonu (Raj) were sowed.
In 2002, Raj's isolation was completed when Balasaheb appointed Uddhav Sena working president. In the 2003 Mumbai municipal polls and later in the 2004 Assembly polls, Raj's men were sidelined.
The Narayan Rane episode gave him the perfect excuse to hoist the flag of rebellion. Political observers point out that now Raj has two choices - to join either the Congress or the Nationalist Congress Party, or float his own party and claim it to be the real Sena.
However, joining either party would mean playing second fiddle. The logical conclusion one can draw is that Raj would form his separate outfit, sooner than later.

Makarand Gadgil