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The sidelined Thackerays now emerge out of the cold, get a warm Shinde welcome

Uddhav Thackeray's sister-in-law Smita and nephew Nihar meet CM Eknath Shinde, back him as a true Shiv Sainik.

Eknath Shinde, Smita Thackeray, Nihar Thackeray, Bal Thackeray, Uddhav Thackeray, Shiv Sena, Political Pulse, indian expressLast week, Smita Thackeray and Nihar Thackeray, the daughter-in-law and grandson, respectively, of Sena founder Bal Thackeray, met Shinde and expressed their support for him. (Express photos)

After getting two-third of the Shiv Sena’s MLAs, 12 of its 18 MPs and hundreds of corporators, besides senior leaders and district unit heads, the Eknath Shinde Sena faction may now acquire some Thackerays.

Last week, Smita Thackeray and Nihar Thackeray, the daughter-in-law and grandson, respectively, of Sena founder Bal Thackeray, met Shinde and expressed their support for him.

The two insisted they were paying just a courtesy call, to acknowledge Shinde as the real Shiv Sainik, carrying forward the ideology of Bal Thackeray. However, whether or not they join politics formally, their presence besides Shinde sent out exactly the message that both sides wanted to convey.

Chief Minister Shinde has been at pains to emphasise that the Sena rebellion led by him was not a revolt against Balasaheb, and in fact was meant to uphold the principles of the late Sena supremo. The rebel Sainiks have also been told not to attack Uddhav Thackeray personally, despite his repeated charge of “betrayal” against them. Having Thackeray clan members on his side only bolsters Shinde’s case.

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MNS leader Raj Thackeray earlier showed his pliability towards the new power dynamics within the Sena.

Like Raj, Smita and other members of the Thackeray family feel sidelined ever since Balasaheb passed on the reins to son Uddhav, who in turn has made the succession line clear, to son Aaditya.

Uddhav is the youngest son of Balasaheb, after Bindu Madhav and Jaidev. While Bindu Madhav died in a road accident in the late ’90s, Jaidev has been away from politics and was in the news for challenging the will left by Thackeray in court.

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Smita was Jaidev’s second wife, with the couple separating in the early 2000s. Jaidev married again after that.

Nihar is the son of Bindu Thackeray, and married to the daughter of BJP leader Harshvadhan Patil.

Smita was considered a power centre during the Shiv Sena-BJP government of 1995-99, and was believed to have the ear of Balasaheb.

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Later, between 1995 and 2004, both Smita and Raj were seen as possible successors of Balasaheb. Even after Smita separated from Jaidev, she continued staying at Matoshree. While Raj decided to split from the Sena in 2005 and started the MNS to further his career, Smita reportedly tried for a Rajya Sabha seat from the Sena in 2007-08, but did not get one. Following Balasaheb’s demise in 2012, they were virtually out in the cold.

Sanjay Patil, a political researcher, points out that both Smita and Nihar have not shown any recent interest in politics. “The meetings (with Shinde) are an attempt to create confusion among the cadre that not just the elected workers are with Shinde but also Thackeray family members.”

After her meeting with the CM, Smita, who now runs a production house full-time, said: “Eknath Shinde is an old Shiv Sainik. I came here to congratulate him. I have known him and his work for the last many years and it was a courtesy meeting.”

Nihar said he didn’t have any plans to enter active politics yet but believes Shinde would take forward the teachings of Balasaheb and deserved his support. “Whatever legal assistance or advisory Shinde will need will be provided by my firm and I. I wish him well,” he said.

In a statement, Shinde said he welcomed the visits and the two appreciated the fact that “we are taking forward the thoughts of Bal Thackeray”.

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Uddhav-led Sena faction leaders said the meetings didn’t hold any significance, and was just an attempt to confuse people with the name Thackeray to isolate him.

First published on: 03-08-2022 at 05:27:42 pm
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