Profile | Mumbai

From professional lensman to CM, Uddhav Thackeray comes a long way

Shiv Sena president Uddhav Thackeray, sworn in on Thursday as the 18th Chief Minister of Maharashtra, faces the biggest test of his life as the leader of an ideologically divergent alliance that took charge at a time of momentous political changes in the State.

An ace photographer, he is the third Sena CM after Manohar Joshi and Narayan Rane — both in 1990s — and the first member of the Thackeray family to hold the top post in the richest State.

Mr. Thackeray (59), otherwise considered an affable, mild-mannered politician, displayed combative traits of his father, Sena founder Bal Thackeray, in dealing with one-time ally Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) on the demand for rotational chief ministership, after the Assembly poll results were announced on October 24.

Watch |Who is Uddhav Thackeray?

He stood his ground on the issue, a stand that eventually led to the collapse of the three-decade old saffron alliance.

New political path

Mr. Thackeray will now have to prove his credentials as a leader who can navigate a new political path with ideologically different parties like the Congress and the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP), partners in the Sena-led ruling coalition, the Maharashtra Vikas Aghadi (MVA).

Though in politics for long, he has never contested an election or held a public post, and it will be interesting to watch how he learns the ropes of governance.

The Sena, a party identified with Hindutva politics and “anti-Congressism” since its inception, has entered a new phase, where it will have to chart out a fresh course under Mr. Thackeray.

Born on July 27, 1960, in Mumbai, Mr. Thackeray studied at Balmohan Vidyamandir and later graduated from JJ School of Arts, where photography was his main subject. Besides being a published author, he is also a professional photographer whose work has appeared in various magazines and has been showcased at numerous exhibitions.

He largely lived in the shadow of his father before coming into his own after being appointed the Sena’s working president in January 2003. Mr. Thackeray formally took over as the chief of the Sena — founded in 1966 to fight for the rights of Marathi people — after his father died in 2012.

He started out in the advertising field by setting up an agency called Chaurang. Specialising in aerial and wildlife photography, he has two photo books to his credit: Maharashtra Desh (2010) on the forts in the State, and Pahava Vitthal (2011) on the Pandharpur wari.

A few years ago, he organised an exhibition of his photographs and donated ₹10 lakh collected from their sale to farmers’ causes.

Like former prime minister Rajiv Gandhi, who started out in politics by helping his mother Indira Gandhi, Mr. Thackeray began assisting his father at a time when the firebrand Sena patriarch was ageing and the party’s sphere was expanding.

Mr. Thackeray focused on strengthening the organisation and encouraged cadres to take up issues of farmers in the suicide-prone districts of rural Maharashtra.

He sought to make the Sena, known for its street politics and aggressive stand on issues of public interest, more acceptable to people outside its core voter base.

Challenges ahead

More than 20 years ago, Mr. Thackeray was seen as a ‘reluctant’ politician, living a cosy life with his wife Rashmi, and sons Aaditya (now an MLA) and Tejas. But now that he has taken plunge into governance, a slew of challenges await him, as he will be one of the most closely watched politicians in the country.

After completing his journey from Matoshree, the Thackeray home in Bandra, to Varsha, the CM’s residence in south Mumbai, the Sena leader will have to reinvent himself, according to political observers. He will now have to display flexibility and political acumen to deal with new-found allies and keep the coalition government going for five years, they said.

“Despite being in government, the three parties are independent entities and would want to expand their respective political base,” the observers said.

A senior Congress leader said, “A political affairs committee would be needed to identify constituencies where the Sena and the Congress-NCP are in direct contest with each other and prevail upon the local leadership to work out an arrangement where the political base of the three parties remains unaffected,” a senior Congress leader said.

Tackling the BJP

Mr. Thackeray will also have to deal with an aggressive BJP in the opposition, knowing very well the former ally will try to make it difficult for his government to function, observers said. “Uddhav will have to keep his flock of MLAs together,” they said.

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Printable version | Nov 27, 2021 9:14:10 AM |

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