MUMBAI: The Shiv Sena, a party famous for having built its roots in the 1960s with its brand of strong-arm tactics, regional bias and a hard-line nationalistic approach, has got a suave image makeover in the 21st century with a bunch of qualified and cosmopolitan politicians managing its affairs.
Right from the inception of the regional party in June 1966 by pro-Marathi politician Bal Keshav Thackeray, the Shiv Sena built its reputation on regional identity politics. It was viewed as a party of lumpen elements who targeted outsiders settled in Mumbai.
Now, the Shiv Sena is a party of next-gen highly qualified, committed and dedicated politicians, several of whom have professional qualifications from India and abroad under their belts. The new-look political party comprises academicians, technocrats and chartered accountants, apart from graduates in diverse academic disciplines.
Not only are these suave politicians managing the internal affairs of the political party at various levels with a great degree of elan and panache, but they have also been interacting with classes and masses alike with equal ease.
At the forefront of the newly elected next-generation politicians of the Shiv Sena is party founder Bal Thackeray's grandson Aditya Thackeray. President of the youth wing of Shiv Sena, the Yuva Sena, he is a qualified lawyer who took the plunge into electoral politics this year and is now, after his victory, considered the 'Crown Prince'.
Aditya Thackeray's suave and articulate manners have put him alongside contenders for the post of Maharashtra Chief Minister even as talks on a power-sharing agreement between the Shiv Sena and the BJP are underway.
Aditya Thackeray's maternal cousin, Varun Sardesai, a US-qualified engineer, is now the general secretary of the Yuva Sena. Next in the line of highly qualified Shiv Sena politicians are two doctors - Manisha Kayande, a party spokesperson and Rahul Patil, who has been elected as an MLA from the Parbhani assembly constituency.
Shiv Sena President Uddhav Thackeray's spokesperson, Harshal Pradhan, is a double graduate who sends out incisive statements on behalf of the Big Boss, and interacts with all media.
Another prominent Shiv Sena member who has been responsible for giving a new look to the party is Arvind Sawant, the Union Heavy Industries Minister. Sawant, a former official with the Mahanagar Telephone Nigam Ltd (MTNL), had joined the Shiv Sena in the 1990s.
Noted industrialist Rajkumar Dhoot, a Rajya Sabha member belonging to the Shiv Sena, has been the former president of industry body ASSOCHAM. The Shiv Sena's MLA from Ratnagiri, Rajan Salvi, is a prominent name in the hotel business.
In the past too, the Shiv Sena has been represented in the Parliament by well-qualified politicians including Suresh Prabhu, a chartered accountant. Late academician Mukesh Patel also represented Shiv Sena in the Rajya Sabha. The party had also accommodated in the past, socialite Chandrika Kenia, and made her a Rajya Sabha member, before she dumped the Shiv Sena for the Congress.