Raj Thackeray may have changed more political avatars than anyone currently operating in Indian politics.
After he broke away from his uncle Shiv Sena founder Balasaheb Thackeray and his cousin Uddhav Thackeray, Raj launched the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena which declared it would take up the cause of the 'Marathi manoos' and targeted North Indians the way the Shiv Sena had gone after South Indians in the late 1960s.
Before the 2019 Lok Sabha election, Raj changed his stance and became perhaps the most vociferous campaigner against Narendra Damodardas Modi and the BJP, his high-decibel campaigns attracting a lot of attention.
A few weeks after cousin Uddhav became Maharashtra's chief minister in November 2019 -- the first Thackeray to occupy an office of state -- Raj began another political pirouette meeting up with Devendra Fadnavis, Modi's point man in Maharashtra, multiple times in 2020 and 2021.
Unable to dislodge the Uddhav government despite its countless efforts, has the BJP now turned to Raj Thackeray to do the needful?
A couple of weeks ago, Raj Thackeray suddenly decided to take on the cause of Hindutva, threatening to play the Hanuman Chalisa (one wonders if he can recite it) outside mosques in Maharashtra if they didn't stop using loudspeakers for the azaan.
After the Maharashtra administration announced that all religious places would require government permission to use loudspeakers, Raj now says the MNS will perform maha aartis at temples across the state (the MNS's influence is said to be limited to a few pockets in Mumbai, Pune and Nashik) on the occasion of Akshaya Tritya on May 3, which is also the day Eid-ul-Fitr may be celebrated.
Maha aartis, for readers who weren't around in early 1993, were organised by the Shiv Sena and its then allies in the Sangh Parivar across Mumbai. This coincided with the second round of horrific riots in the city; the first blood-letting and carnage having occurred post the December 6, 1992 Babri Masjid demolition.
Dominic Xavier offers his take on Raj's latest political ploy and wonders if this Thackeray versus Thackeray skit will help the BJP finally achieve its goal of ejecting the Maha Vikas Aghadi government from a state that has largely been insulated from the communal disharmony sweeping across parts of north India.