It is not just the Shiv Sena and Uddhav Thackeray who were left diminished following the split in the party in June. The political battle between Thackeray and Chief Minister Eknath Shinde not only divided the Shiv Sena but also fractured the families of party leaders and supporters.
The first and most high-profile casualty of the battle between the two sides was the Thackeray family itself as Uddhav’s former sister-in-law Smita, the former wife of the former CM’s elder brother Jaidev, and nephew Nihar, the son of Uddhav’s second brother Bindu Madhav, joined the Shinde faction. Jaidev’s son Jaideep, however, backed his uncle.
In Thane, the split has taken a toll on the extended family of Anand Dighe whom Shinde considers to be his “political guru”. Anand Dighe was a powerful Sena leader in the district and passed away in 2001 after a road accident. Following the split in the family, Uddhav appointed Anand Dighe’s nephew Kedar the Thane district head of his party while his aunt and Anand Dighe’s sister Aruna Gadkari was present at the rival Sena group’s Dussehra rally last month at Bandra Kurla Complex.
A similar family split was witnessed in the Kirtikar family when Shiv Sena MP Gajanan Kirtikar switched loyalties and joined Shinde earlier this month. His son Amol, who is a Yuva Sena general secretary, has chosen to side with the Thackerays.
“I have joined Eknath Shinde since I was not comfortable with the relationship that Thackeray was forging with the Congress and the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP),” the MP said. “My son, however, has decided to stick with the Thackerays as he has been working with Aaditya Thackeray for so many years and hence he doesn’t feel it right to leave their side now. It is his choice I can’t force my views on him.”
A family of a district Sena leader in Nandurbar also could not escape the churn in the party. While the Shiv Sena’s district chief and Nandurbar Zilla Parishad member Ganesh Paradke has decided to stick with the Thackeray faction, his elder brother Vijay who is also a member of the Parishad is now a member of the rival group.
“Yes, we are in different factions of the Sena. I remained with the Thackerays because I wanted to but my elder brother did not wish to be and wanted to go to the Shinde faction since he felt it was right for him. The decision has not affected our relationship and there are no issues in the family. It was purely a political decision,” said Ganesh Paradke.
While many of the families where such divisions along political lines occurred after the Sena rebellion claimed that their decisions were linked to ideological reasons and loyalty to their leaders, political analysts believe expediency was the main driving factor.
“Even though many of them are giving this an ideological covering, these decisions are being made for political expediency. Pragmatism and local political equations are playing a part in these decisions. With the political situation in the state still fluid, many of them are trying to sail in two boats at the same time,” said Dr Sanjay Patil of the University of Mumbai who studied the Shiv Sena between 1985 and 2022 for his doctoral work.