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Uddhav Thackeray: From reluctant politician to Maharashtra chief minister

Till 1996, Shiv Sena was assumed by all to be bequeathed to Uddhav Thackeray’s cousin Raj Thackeray. The latter had a penchant for fiery speechmaking, had a greater stylistic resemblance to uncle’s onstage persona and was a cartoonist like him. Uddhav, who graduated from the JJ School of Arts, preferred to stay in the background.

, ET Bureau|
Last Updated: Nov 29, 2019, 08.36 AM IST
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Uddhav Thackeray
MUMBAI: Uddhav Thackeray, who took over as Maharashtra CM, has always been a reluctant politician. When he took over as the Shiv Sena chief from his father Bal Thackeray, many had rushed to write his untimely political obituary. But Uddhav survived and has now triumphed.

Till 1996, Shiv Sena was assumed by all to be bequeathed to Uddhav’s cousin Raj. The latter had a penchant for fiery speechmaking, had a greater stylistic resemblance to uncle’s onstage persona and was a cartoonist like him.

Uddhav, who graduated from the JJ School of Arts, preferred to stay in the background. However, things changed in 1996 when Matunga resident Ramesh Kini’s death rocked Maharashtra’s political firmament. Kini was a tenant in a building owned by Suman Shah, Raj’s developer friend. Kini refused to vacate his flat. Shah allegedly used Raj’s influence to force Kini to vacate. Kini was later found dead and in 1996, Chhagan Bhujbal, who had joined Congress by then, went to town blaming Raj for the death. Sena decided that Raj should lie low and Uddhav should be the face.

Even when Raj’s star waned, Uddhav was still not seen as a natural leader. Over the years, though, Uddhav has surprised many and gradually consolidated his hold on the party. His first major task, even before he took formal charge of the party, was in 2002 when he successfully ensured Sena’s victory in the civic polls, which were crucial as he had denied tickets to many entrenched Raj supporters and yet was able to capture the Mumbai municipal corporation.

Even Raj, who on Thursday witnessed Uddhav’s swearing-in, had doubts about Uddhav. In 2010, Raj had used the typical Bal Thackeray insouciance to tell reporters that Uddhav was only a good photographer.

One reason was that Uddhav did not gel with the Sena’s angry young man image. He was soft spoken, not known to use slang like his father in public speeches or rile up the crowd. However, Uddhav made it up with his tact and calculated risks.

His close friends ET spoke to said: “He does get very angry, however he does a successful job of not showing it. You will never know what he is actually thinking.” Uddhav does not smoke or drink. His only passion was photography, be it wildlife or aerial photography. “He has a close circle of friends, but most of them are in the field of arts like photography. He does not discuss politics with them and becoming Uddhav’s friend is not easy. Unlike others, he won’t become your friend because you are famous or rich,” said a friend.

Uddhav has a close circle of people whom he relies on while taking political calls and is wary of the media, said a person close to the family. Uddhav also relies on his wife Rashmi’s inputs and suggestions who many in the Sena see as another ‘Meenatai’, his mother.
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Uddhav had realised much earlier that Mumbai’s Maharashtrian population was shifting to other cities and north Indians were taking their place. In a bid to attract them, he started the ‘Mee Mumbaikar’ movement and said all north Indians living were part of the city. It was a significant change from Sena’s ‘son of the soil’ cry. Close friends of the CM said Uddhav is open to calculated risks. “The move to form a government sans BJP is a prime example,” said a Sena leader.

He added Uddhav once pulled up Sanjay Raut for a Saamana editorial in May that sought a burkha ban in India. Sena’s manifesto for the assembly polls also promised many sops for the Muslims. In fact, Uddhav has said Sena-NCP-Congress alliance will continue for a number of years. Clearly, Uddhav after being sworn in as the CM has once again proved many wrong.

(Catch all the Business News, Breaking News Events and Latest News Updates on The Economic Times.)

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