In a rare scene, the Thackeray daughters-in-law Rashmi and Sharmila have been campaigning for the Shiv Sena and MNS respectively, independent of their husbands.
Rashmi Thackeray, wife of Shiv Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray, always shied away from public appearances with him. Whenever Uddhav addressed public meetings she preferred to sit in the audience and spoke before the party’s women workers in his absence. But this time, she decided to come to the limelight, considering the importance of this election for Uddhav’s political survival. If Shiv Sena wins at least 15 seats it will be a befitting reply to Uddhav’s critics, who allege that he is not an influential leader.
Rashmi, a Brahmin, conducted an election rally in Mumbai’s neighbourhood Dombivli, where she spent her childhood, to show her political acumen. The Brahmin votes in this area are vital because they can swing the election result. The Shiv Sena has fielded a Maratha, while its rival candidate from the NCP is a Brahmin. Rashmi also conducted road shows in south and central Mumbai.
Shiv Sena spokesperson Neelam Gorhe said Rashmi’s contribution in the campaign was important for the party. “She always talks sweetly but firmly. We had urged her in the past elections also to join us in the campaign, but she was reluctant. Her entry has lowered Uddhavji’s burden,” she said.
MNS president Raj Thackeray’s wife Sharmila, whose earlier role was limited to collecting feedback from workers about the party’s functioning, is now conducting road shows for MNS candidates on her own. In the past, she had accompanied Raj in several rallies, but remained a mute spectator.
She was present when a candidate actor Mahesh Manjrekar filed his nominations. Sharmila has also been visiting lanes and by-lanes in the Mumbai North-West constituency seeking votes for him. She also campaigned in high profile areas of Pune for MNS candidate Deepak Paigude. “The workers expect saheb (Raj) to campaign everywhere, but it is not possible because of his busy schedule. Vahini (Sharmila) has bridged the gap. She not only injects enthusiasm among them, but also helps them plan certain strategies at the local level,” said Reeta Gupta, a leader of the MNS women wing. There is speculation that Sharmila will head the women’s wing after the election.