A new book on the Thackeray cousins, Raj and Uddhav, reveals that much in contradiction to the anti-north Indian political rhetoric deployed by both the Shiv Sena and the Maharashtra Navanirman Sena (MNS), the patriarch of the family and father to Shiv Sena founder Balasaheb Thackeray, the late ‘Prahodhankar’ Keshav Sitaram Thackeray, traced the family origins to Bihar.
The book, The Cousins Thackeray: Uddhav, Raj and the Shadow of their Senas (Penguin Random House) by journalist Dhaval Kulkarni makes this point fairly early on, quoting ‘Prabhodhankar’ Thackeray’s own book, Gramnyancha Sadyanta Itihas Arhat Nokarshahiche Bande (‘A History of Village Disputes or Rebellion of the Bureaucracy’) on the issue. The book unequivocally states that the Chandraseniya Kayastha Prabhu (CKP) community, to which the Thackerays belong, moved out of ancient Magadha (in present day Bihar) after Mahpadma Nanda, in the third or fourth century BC, deployed usury with regard to his subjects. The community migrated out of Magadha and “earned its living as warriors and scribes”. The anti-migrant political rhetoric of the Shiv Sena and the MNS therefore has a piquant and ironic twist.
This is not the only interesting thing in the book, which is one the first to look at the third generation of Thackerays in public life. According to it, the seeds of competition between the cousins were sown in December 1993, when Raj Thackeray had organised a morcha (rally) of unemployed youth before the Maharashtra Assembly in its winter home in Nagpur. “It was evident that the Nagpur morcha would be huge. A night before the morcha , Raj got a call from Matoshree (the Thackeray homestead), asking him to ensure that Uddhav too got to speak at the public meeting. Raj, who was staying at the Hotel Centre Point in Nagpur, was disturbed as he felt Uddhav wanted a share of the credit,” Mr. Kulkarni quotes an unnamed former close associate of the family as saying.
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The book also details the differences in the style and approach of the two cousins, especially through one very illustrative example of a badminton match played by both in 1997, where Uddhav, while playing with his cousin and his associates, fell down and was laughed at. “He (Uddhav) did not say anything then, but stopped coming to play from the next day onwards. He, however, enrolled for classes at Bandra’s MIG club and soon attained a commendable mastery over the game,” the book quotes a friend of Raj Thackeray as saying.
With Maharashtra Assembly polls round the corner, and the MNS reaching out for allies in the Congress-Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) front, it will be interesting to see how this rivalry plays out in what is being seen as a decisive showdown between the two Thackerays.