From shy wildlife photographer to CM designate: The impressive transformation of Uddhav Thackeray
In 2014, Uddhav stood against the Modi wave and got 63 MLAs against all odds. Probably that was the moment when he made the promise to himself that he shall be the Shiv Sena’s Chief Minister in 2019.
MUMBAI: From a shy wildlife photographer to an astute political organizer and now the CM designate - the rise of Uddhav Thackeray is more than impressive.
Till around 15 years ago, when former Chief Minister Narayan Rane was expelled from the Shiv Sena, hardly anybody took Uddhav seriously, let alone looking at him as someone who will carry the legacy of Shiv Sena founder Balasheb Thackeray forward. But, in a very short span, he not only gained control of the party organization but completely transformed its style of functioning and orientation.
Importantly, he didn’t let the fire within the common party worker, or the Shiv Sainik as they are called, die in this process of transformation. He sustained the party through these testing times and made it grow. A leader who speaks from his heart and in simple language, he has already proved that he truly carries Balasaheb’s legacy.
But it wasn't always so.
Engrossed in his hobby of wildlife photography, Uddhav hardly took politics seriously till the mid-nineties. Yes, he ran the party mouthpiece Saamana but he was far away from party politics.
Moreover, due to the presence of his cousin Raj, who was the shadow of Shiv Sena founder Balasaheb Thackeray back then, Uddhav remained away from the media glare for a long time.
Raj had oratory skills like his uncle. He had built his Vidyarthi Sena and had a readymade network of followers. He was a firebrand. Uddhav in contrast was sober.
It was a complete mismatch for the Shiv Sena of those days. While the party had its government, Raj had started controlling the party to a large extent. It was in the late nineties, when Raj lost some of his clout in the party organization due to the Ramesh Kini case, that Uddhav got a chance to come forth.
Just before that, Uddhav had returned to stay at Matoshree along with his father. The decision moved him closer to father and also to day-to-day politics.
It was around the same time Uddhav had his first interaction with the BJP. Defying the Shiv Sena’s calculations, Gopinath Munde had forced the party to go in for elections. Though the alliance had enough seats, Munde let go the chance of forming the government as they couldn't agree on the Chief Ministers’ post. It doesn’t seem that Uddhav’s first impression of the greedy BJP has changed much after that.
After the party lost power, an organizational revamp was necessary. Uddhav was made the executive head of the party. He started organizing regular meetings of party leaders from different regions and wings of the party. Slowly but steadily, many aggressive leaders, who believed in muscle power, were replaced by moderates.
It was around this time that Uddhav stalled a coup conceived by CM aspirant Narayan Rane. Eventually, he was thrown out. Not being able to cope with the new style of working within the party, Raj too quit the party.
While forming the MNS, Raj took up the issue of Marathi Manoos aggressively. This helped Uddhav transform the Shiv Sena to suit cosmopolitan Mumbai. He then also locked horns with the BJP’s Nitin Gadkari, who was till then in Balasaheb Thackeray's good books.
Gujarat CM Narendra Modi’s open praise for Raj Thackeray increased the animosity towards the BJP in Uddhav’s mind. Balasaheb Thackeray’s death in 2012 served another blow to the Shiv Sena.
For Uddhav, the loss was personal as well as political. People started predicting the end of the Shiv Sena.
In that atmosphere, Uddhav tied up with the BJP for the 2014 Lok Sabha polls. Before the assembly polls, he started pitching for a major share of seats and the alliance broke.
Uddhav stood against the Modi wave and got 63 MLAs against all odds. Probably that was the moment when he made the promise to himself that he shall be the Shiv Sena’s Chief Minister in 2019. Today the promise is being fulfilled.