Yuva Sena leader Aaditya Thackeray began his Jan Ashirwad Yatra in Jalgaon Thursday, with leaders of the Shiv Sena projecting him as the party’s candidate for Chief Minister in the Maharashtra Assembly elections due in the next couple of months.
What is Aaditya Thackeray’s tour of the state about?
The Shiv Sena says Thackeray is undertaking the Jan Ashirwad Yatra to thank the people who voted for the Shiv Sena in this summer’s Lok Sabha elections, and to seek their blessings for the upcoming Assembly elections. He also hopes to win over those who did not vote for the Sena in the Parliament polls.
The statewide tour is also aimed at helping the younger Thackeray consolidate his position in the Shiv Sena as the party’s second most important leader. It is also to signal to senior politicians with ambitions of bigger role in government that the Thackerays will always remain in control of the destiny of the party and its affairs.
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So exactly how does Aaditya fit into this strategy of the Thackerays and the Sena?
For the nine years that Aaditya has been involved in politics, he has been working as the chief of the youth wing of the Sena, and has taken up several issues of concern to the state’s youth. While he was elevated to the core team of the Sena as a ‘Leader’ of the party at its national executive meeting in January 2018, Aaditya has been seen largely as a Mumbai, or urban-centric youth leader.
Sena functionaries say Aaditya decided in February this year to expand his image from that of a leader of only Mumbai or urban areas, and to work towards projecting himself as a leader across Maharashtra. His Yatra is aimed at that goal — removing his Mumbai or urban-centric image and establishing himself as an acceptable face for people across the state.
Sources in the Sena said that the leadership appears to have realised that it is difficult to accommodate senior members’ ambitions of bigger role in the government in the changing political scenario. By projecting Aaditya as the CM face, the leadership hopes to be able to preempt the aspirations of these other leaders, and to take stronger control over the party.
And what does Aaditya bring to the table?
In his speeches, the younger Thackeray has been talking about the various issues taken up by the Sena in the last few years, including the relief to drought-affected farmers last year, the demand farm loans waivers, crop insurance, and addressing problems of college students.
He has been asking people to call Sena workers for help, and assuring that their issues would be resolved. He refers to the days when the Congress-NCP was in power, and draws comparisons with the current BJP-Sena regime, underlining his resolve for a ‘new’ Maharashtra.
No member of the Thackeray family has so far contested an election. The family has always preferred to operate with a remote control. However, Aaditya has over the past few years, spoken about taking the plunge. Sena leaders close to him say that he wants to be part of the legislature and executive decision-making.
Following the Lok Sabha polls, the demand for Aaditya to contest the Assembly elections has grown among Shiv Sena and Yuva Sena leaders and cadres.