At the Dussehra rally held by the Eknath Shinde Sena faction, which was as much a show of strength as it registering its claim to the Thackeray legacy, there were some faces on the dais that caught the most attention.
Among those lined up by Shinde were members of the Thackeray family estranged from Uddhav, to underline that the latter was isolated in the Thackeray clan. Some of them had already given a hint of where they leaned in the intra-Sena battle by meeting Shinde earlier. However, the October 5 show was the stage that mattered – and all the stakeholders knew that.
Shinde made it a point to thank them for their support in his speech at the Dussehra rally.
The middle son of Shiv Sena founder Bal Thackeray, Jayadev has had a long-running feud with younger brother Uddhav, especially over their father Bal Thackeray’s will. The dispute even led to dirty linen being washed in public.
Known to be a short-tempered man, Jayadev, 65, has been married three times. His first marriage to Jayashree, the daughter of renowned Marathi writer Madhusudan Kalelkar, did not last long. With Jayashree, he had a son called Jaydeep.
The eldest grandchild of Balasaheb, Jaydeep, incidentally, was present at the other Sena Dussehra rally on Wednesday, led by Uddhav Thackeray.
With his second wife Smita, Jayadev had two children – Rahul and Aishvarya. A little after 1995, when Matoshree, the residence of the Thackerays, underwent redevelopment, Jaydev moved out to Kalina. He never came back to live at Matoshree again, even as Smita did along with her children. Jayadev would drop in though to meet Balasaheb at Matoshree.
Jayadev, who lives in an apartment complex near Matoshree, later divorced Smita and married Anuradha Suvarna.
The Uddhav family, comprising wife Rashmi and sons Aaditya (a former minister) and Tejas, now live at Matoshree.
As his relations with Uddhav worsened, Jayadev grew close to their cousin Raj Thackeray, and continues to have good relations with him.
In the late 1990s, Jayadev was caught in a controversy when his name figured in a case of deer hunting at Sanjay Gandhi National Park. But it was never investigated, with the Shiv Sena government in power from 1995 to 1999.
What made his presence at the Shinde rally the most surprising was that Jayadev has often insisted that he is not interested in politics. Like his father and Raj, who tried their hand at sketching, Jayadev dabbles in painting, particularly of wildlife at night. He also has a keen interest in Ayurvedic herbs.
At the Dussehra rally, Jayadev said that he admired certain positions taken by Eknath Shinde, without elaborating.
– She was a staffer at a five-star hotel when she met Jayadev and got married to him. After the marriage soured, while Jayadev moved out of the Thackeray residence Matoshree, Smita continued to stay there, and occupied the first floor.
In the Shiv Sena-BJP government of 1995 to 1999, she was known as the power centre, and was believed to nurture political ambitions. Sena sources say she was instrumental in Narayan Rane becoming the chief minister.
However, in his later years, as he fell ill, Balasaheb chose Uddhav as his successor. Frequent differences with Uddhav and his family led to Smita moving out of Matoshree with her two children.
She runs an organisation called Mukti Foundation, which specialises in de-addiction programmes, on a plot allotted by the Sena-BJP government. She also made forays into the film industry.
Like her ex-husband Jayadev, Smita, 64 , too has good relations with Raj Thackeray as well as Rane, who is now a BJP leader.
After Eknath Shinde took over as CM, she had met and congratulated him.
– He is the son of Balasaheb’s eldest son, Bindumadhav aka Binda Thackeray. After the death of Binda in a road accident in 1996, his family found itself pushed to the margins in the Matoshree household.
Balasaheb tried to settle the friction by arranging a separate house for Binda’s wife Madhuri and their children Nihar and Neha, and ensured they got a good education.
Nihar is now a partner at a leading law firm and is married to Ankita, the daughter of BJP MLA Harshavardhan Patil. Recently, he hosted Union Finance Minister and senior BJP leader Nirmala Sitharaman in Pune when she was on a visit to Baramati.
– He does not have much contact with Uddhav and family.
– Having started out as a watchman with a hotelier known to the Thackerays, Thapa, who was originally from Nepal, came to work at Matoshree in the early 1990s. After the death of Balasaheb’s wife Meenatai, he grew close to the Sena supremo. From serving food to giving medicines to Thackeray Sr, he did all such odd jobs. Thapa also carried a walkie-talkie with him and accompanied Balasaheb on all tours. Sena sources said that after Balasaheb fell ill, Thapa looked after him devotedly.
– The Sena supremo trusted him enough to let him set up a Nepali wing of the party.
– After Balasaheb’s death though, Thapa found himself sidelined, and returned to Nepal.
Recently, he surfaced again and announced that he was joining the Shinde faction of the Shiv Sena.
While Shinde had several members of the extended Thackeray family rally behind him, Uddhav got at least one to share the stage at his rally: Jayadev’s eldest son Jaydeep.
The eldest grandchild of Balasaheb, Jaydeep, 36, works as a creative head at a leading ad agency. Speaking to The Indian Express, Jaydeep said he had been raised essentially by his mother Jayashree, after her divorce from his father Jayadev Thackeray, and that he didn’t have much contact with the Thackerays.
However, he said: “I respect Uddhavkaka… I met Rashmikaki, Aaditya at the rally.”
About Jayadev’s presence at the Shinde rally, Jaydeep said: “Everybody is not on the same page. I have always been with my granddad Balasaheb. In such times, it is natural to support my family. What my father did was his choice.”
A distant relative said: “Jaydeep enjoys good relations with Rashmi Thackeray and Aaditya and continues to visit them.” Shiv Sena MP Vinayak Raut said: “Jaydeep came to the (Uddhav) rally on his own.”
Asked if this meant Jaydeep had joined the Uddhav Sena, Raut said: “He belongs to the Thackeray family, there is no need for a formal invite.”