This article has been originally written for Diwali magazine (print) of Grahak Hith, in the section called ‘legacy and lineage’.
Editor of the magazine requested me to write on Thackeray family.
The subject was very precise so I had to write what I wrote.
There are no if’s and but’s about the precision and content of this article. It was with my conviction I wrote this article.
Now article is with Grahak Hith.
They might print it, they might not..
When I spoke to them, I realized they were shaken. On their part nothing is wrong but I took my decision to publish it on my blog.
Ultimate responsibility is mine.
Anatomy of Thackeray Family
by Raju Parulekar
Balasaheb Thackeray was literally the ‘Sun’ for ‘Sons and Cousins of the Thackeray’s’ and not exactly for the ‘Sons of the Soil’. More about this is discussed and analyzed at length in my book ‘Ideas are Dangerous (2003)’, in the article ‘Shivsena: Bhaasman aani Vaastavik’ (Shivsena: Illusion & Reality).
This article (Anatomy of Thackeray Family) does not refer to entire Shivsena and/or Maharashtra politics but refers only to the family of Thackeray’s. Hence, this article has few limitations, yet Balasaheb Thackeray remains the ‘Life Giving Sun’ for the ‘Sons & Cousins of Thackeray Family’. Shivsena, Maharashtra Navnirman Sena and the entire Thackeray orbit evolves around this one name, called ‘Balasaheb’. This Thackeray clan and their co-dependents are banking on the life and ‘achievements’ of Balasaheb Thackeray to fulfill their aspirations.
Balasaheb Thackeray started ‘Marmik’ before he formed his own organization few years later. Balasaheb’s father, Prabhodankar Thackeray’s (Keshav Sitaram Thackeray) progressive writings and token contribution in Sanyukta Maharashtra Movement was a capital on which Balasaheb Thackeray formed Shivsena in 1966 (19th June 1966), 6 years after the declaration of the State of Maharashtra including Mumbai. Balasaheb Thackeray was not much involved inSanyukta Maharashtra Movement, all we can say that he witnessed the movement as a cartoonist. Leftists, socialists and even Hindu Mahasabha were involved in Sanyukta Maharashtra Movement. The real warrior and leader of this movement was a multi-faceted, fearless AcharyaPrahlad Keshav Atre. Balasaheb Thackeray stands no chance if we consider Atre’s work in Marathi language, Maharashtrian people’s life, Maharashtra, Mumbai, Dramatics, Cinema, Journalism and his Writings & Speeches. To say that the life and achievements of Balasaheb Thackeray are insignificant compared to Acharya Atre, won’t be an exaggeration at all. However, Balasaheb Thackeray had organizational skills which Acharya Atre lacked and post Sanyukta Maharashtra Movement; Balasaheb Thackeray accidently grabbed the golden opportunity to consolidate orphan anger of Marathi people. Later in Balasaheb Thackeray used this anger as a fuel for his family’s prosperity. The legacy continues with Udhav, Aditya and Raj though belonging to different parties.
Though Shivsena was founded under the name of Marathi pride for ‘Marathi Manus’, there was absence of philosophy, ideology and ethics of morality for this organization. Balasaheb Thackeray’s ‘Craft of Opportunism’ is the only factor responsible for the expansion & growth of Shivsena. Such was the craft that it took 50 years to know his ‘Art of Opportunism’! For 50 years, he has been in and out of relationship with Marathi, Hindutva, Muslim League, Socialist and BJP.
Numerous Marathi youth hoisted Shivsena’s flag with pride, they died, they killed, and they sacrificed their lives and families. Whole Lalbaug-Parel (Girangaon) was extinct due to mill workers strike which was officially not taken back and yet towers were built with direct or indirect partnership with Thackeray clan. It is because of Balasaheb Thackeray that the Thackeray family (both the Sons & the Cousins) is one of the richest families in India, and no one knows their official business. Still, Maharashtrians loved & offered fierce loyalty to Balasaheb Thackeray. Marathi people never questioned ‘Why this loyalty to hooliganism?’ That is the success of a man called, Balasaheb.
I am considering only Balasaheb, Uddhav, Raj & Aditya while writing this anatomy. I believe & always follow a principle that the family which is related to a politician, be it a friend or a foe, be it a supporter or in opposition, cannot be discussed socially without their permission, however, by the rule of democracy, the family members who have officially entered politics, no doubt, subject themselves to social discussions and criticism. This article will lead in that direction and will follow that principle.
Balasaheb Thackeray did not let Shivsainiks and Maharashtra know that he wanted to make a business out of politics. Remember his famous, smart slogans – ‘Our policy is 20% Politics and 80% Social Work’, ‘Politics is nothing but Eczema’! That was a sheer lie and Maharashtrians were influenced by this ‘Actor’.
Today, Raj Thackeray too is not a man of his words. Opportunism is the name of the game and it is being played shamelessly. But how can we blame only the Sons & Cousins when the ‘Sun’ Thackeray himself founded Shivsena on the basis of Opportunism? People did not know it then, which is it! Since the foundation of Shivsena, every time the Tiger would mesmerize the sons of the soil with his speech on Marathi, Marathi pride, Hindutva and fierce Shivsainiks.
However, take the last speech of Balasaheb Thackeray, the helpless, fragile man appealed to the ‘Marathi Manus’, ‘Take care of my beloved son Uddhav and grandson Aditya’. He did not say, take care ofMarathi Manus, Hindus, Maharashtra or India. Personally, I was not at all surprised by his statement because it was the culmination of the opportunistic foundation he laid for Shivsena in 1966. If anyone asks me, ‘what is the Lowest Common Denominator of Thackeray family?’ I will point towards these statements.
The reason behind Balasaheb’s last appeal lies in the twisted family background of Thackerays. Anatomy of this family background is the way to understand this entire Thackeray clan. Though Uddhav is the son of Balasaheb Thackeray, he was not a politician by nature. Unlike his contemporary politician sons, entering politics was not an easy transition for him and the good thing was he was aware of himself. Uddhav was a quiet, sober, shy and a diffident person. He could never pretend to be as aggressive as his father. His mould was of a normal, middle class guy from a Kayasthfamily (that means they don’t meddle in others business). Now that I look back, I recall that Uddhav was aware that he lacks eloquence, intelligence, shrewdness, aggressiveness and extrovert qualities. But the people from the inner circle of Thackeray’s claim that not only Balasaheb but Uddhav’s mother Meenatai Thackeray too wanted Uddhav to carry the political business legacy forward.
On the other hand, the music director brother of Balasaheb Thackeray, Shreekantji Thackeray shared a big responsibility of Marathi weekly ‘Marmik’ which was mouthpiece of Shivsena before daily Samna came in to existence, since the foundation of Shivsena. He was like Laxman for Ram. His son Raj Thackeray grew under Balasaheb Thackeray’s tutelage. Raj was an extrovert, interested in politics, opportunistic or became so due to the influence of Balasaheb. Untill 1995, no one was aware of Uddhav’s political understandings and Thackeray family’s internal twists. Everyone assumed that Raj Thackeray will be the political heir of Balasaheb Thackeray, who was just like him, a mini Balasaheb Thackeray.
No other Marathi politician must have criticized Indira Gandhi for promoting a political dynasty than Balasaheb through his sarcastic speeches, cartoons and writings, but the hypocrisy being the main characteristic of Indian politics, Balasaheb wanted first his nephew, then son & grandson to be in power for his political legacy. The political existence of Raj Thackeray was eclipsed when Shivsena came into power in Maharashtra in 1995. Though Raj was dear, a family, he was still a cousin of Uddhav. Uddhav’s blood and lineage stems from Balasaheb. Balasaheb Thackeray was not an exception. He chose his son over his nephew. The initial impression was that of Raj being a carbon copy of Balasaheb, trained and perfect candidate to follow Balasaheb compared to Uddhav, who was not politically groomed. Unfortunately, rude, erratic, dictatorial and narcissistic behaviour of Raj turned few senior Shivsena leaders against him clandestinely and they stood by Uddhav. This was the turning point not just for Raj but Shivsena. Finally, Raj Thackeray parted ways and formed his own political party though he continued with the same narcissistic, rude, dictatorial behaviour. The mistakes of Raj Thackeray and his self-centeredness was surely a reflection of Balasaheb. But as an individual, Balasaheb was entirely different, at least till 1995. But in Raj’s case it was his first nature, percolated and absorbed by his soul.
From the formation of Shivsena till it came into power (1966-1995), for Shivsainiks, Balasaheb was a gentle, soft spoken leader and was easily accessible. After all he built the organization. He was pioneer of his own structure whereas Raj Thackeray was impatient. He wanted everything quickly with shortcuts and bypasses. Balasaheb showed the narcissism after Shivsena came into power but it was too early to be narcissistic for Raj. Balasaheb spent the period of 50-55 years of his age as a middle class man. On the other hand, both Uddhav and Raj had enormous financial, political, human and other resources at their hands. Most of the resources are parallel. Here parallel is illegitimate! And the whole orbit was once controlled by Balasaheb himself as the Sun.
The period when Raj stepped out of Shivsena was a bit uncomfortable for Uddhav. Raj had successfully created an illusion of dummy Balasaheb. It created an impact on Shivsena due to which Shivsena had to struggle for some time. Surprisingly, Uddhav’s shyness which caused trouble for him became ultimately saviour for Uddhav himself. For Shivsena’s now established feudal leadership, who stood by Uddhav, it was easy to prosper under the submissive leadership. Whereas, the autocratic style of Raj Thackeray did not have anything new to offer. With no dreams, no directions, no perspective, he proved to be old wine in new bottle.
Raj Thackeray did not have absolutely anything new to offer. A leader needs the power to direct the society towards a new dream, it can be reality, it can be illusion but somethings needs to be there. Raj Thackeray’s newly formed, Maharashtra Navnirman Sena was bankrupt as far as new ideas and new dreams are concerned. Hence, the initial illusionary charisma of Raj which was imitation of Balasaheb started fading away over the years. Balasaheb Thackeray in his own glorious days established his own local parallel ‘judiciaries’ and availed the alternate way for extortion for many. Raj’s, Maharashtra Navnirman Sena implemented this from day one, which was not acceptable by many supporters and people. It was not the era of Balasaheb anymore and Raj failed to understand it. Youth has changed. Youth has awakened with new understandings and expectations! Hence, rapidly the image of Raj’s Maharashtra Navnirman Sena became one of an autocratic & extortionist party which has nothing new to offer. Also, there were no differences in the promises made to ‘Marathi Manus’ by Raj and once by Balasaheb. These promises couldn’t do much. Well, these promises never made any difference, because forget Raj Thackeray, Balasaheb himself did not know what to do with Maharashtra & ‘Marathi Manus’. Globalisation has changed the society. The kind of youth Raj has encountered is awakened, with skills of enterprise and exposed to the new world and updated with social media which is beyond Raj’s capacity to comprehend their mind.
On the other hand, Uddhav has still not overcome the world of Balasaheb! He never knew and yet is unaware of today’s time, today’s problems and realities. (Read Saamna)
You cannot keep people in illusionary glorious past while working in the interest of your own family which happened during Balasaheb’s reign. It became history with the advent of social media, RTI Acts and has spared no politician, including Uddhav and Raj.
So, now Uddhav is trying to find the solution to new age questions by bringing Aditya Thackeray into politics. And this has been the ridiculously foolish way of Thackeray family to simplify the complications. This also is inherited as usual. On Kashmir issue, Balasaheb used to say, ‘send tanks and get rid of Kashmir issue.’ This is typical Thackeray style to simplify complicated issues. Complicated issues cannot have easy answers. Otherwise Indira Gandhi or any other Prime-Minister would have found a solution. Their problem lies elsewhere since Balasaheb’s time. Balasaheb couldn’t find the answers for he himself did not know the questions. Uddhav and Raj too are following the same path. And so to find an answer of another unknown question, Uddhav launched Aditya too! Aditya is nothing but the third generation of aimless Thackeray’s and there seems no possibility of any change in his identity. This is it! This is the business, this is the game!! Sun and Sons-Cousins are revolving around the same path for 50 years now…from one question to another and from another to yet another question! This journey gave them everything, tremendous money, fame, power and recognition. This prosperity is no less than that of Tata, Birla, Bachhan and Tendulkar. However, these tycoons have earned their own wealth, for Thackeray’s and we did the job! We Maharashtrians earned and gave this wealth to this bunch of hooligans.
It is the blood, sweat and loyalty of ‘Marathi Manus’ that Thackeray’s have prospered. That’s the reason we still look up to them with hope, curiosity & attraction. Because a devotee needs god more than god needs a devotee! Out of devotion temples are created, once temple is in place we have gold, diamonds, offerings, garlands, songs & slogans! Maharashtra and the ‘Marathi Manus’ built this wealthy Thackeray Temple out of insecurities and the truth is we know that the Thackeray gods are never going to prosper us. Here we follow the law of probability. Out of 100 fiercely loyal co-dependent devotees if 40 devotees are flourishing by law of probability they become the staunch followers of the god and ‘Group Dictat’ the rest of the 60 helpless devotees.
Many have asked me, given the fact that my 2003 analysis of Thackeray in my article ‘Shivsena: Bhaasamaan aani Vastavik’ (Shivsena; Illusion and Reality) available in my book ‘Ideas are Dangerous’ has come true, ‘what’s next? What will happen to sons and cousins of Thackeray’s respectively?’ Well, I can’t give easy answers to complicated issues like Thackeray’s do. I am not a Thackeray. That’s also not the job of a writer. There are two types of journeys people go for. One who knows their destination, travel and arrive at their destination. The other type of people who wander aimlessly, keep on travelling from one place to the other. Their co-dependents too wander and are lost! Thackerays belongs to this second category. Balasaheb was aimless, if you ask Raj, Uddhav and Aditya or any forthcoming Thackeray, they are aimless too! And in this epic journey, we have been their constant companions, we became their host, we took care of our guest, our god, we offered everything we had – our sweat, our blood and our tears! The journey is still on. To sum up this journey of sons & cousins of Thackeray’s in few words, moral of the story which is described in Saamna in marathi – Mard (Man), Mawale (Sainiks), Kawale(Crows), Khandani(Extortion), Khanjir (Knife), Kothla (Intestines), Ghode(Horses), Virat (Huge), Ativirat (Monumental), Vede(Insane), Achat (Stupefying), Puchat (Lame)! Thackeray’s can’t go beyond this. This is history, geography and a biopic of Thackeray family.
Someone will ask me, ‘What about the popularity of Raj Thackeray?’ This popularity is of a narcissist actor. Raj is only imitating Balasaheb Thackeray. We all enjoy the performance of Dev Anand’s duplicate, Kishore Bhanushali has his place in industry. To fulfil the demand & supply chain we do need China made lamps if original lamps are not available in Diwali. Raj’s popularity will not go beyond imitation, mimicry and style. Thackeray family and cousins have nothing to do with originality, integrity and obviously which brings simplicity.
In addition to Shivsena’sMawale (Sainiks), Kawale(Crows), Khandani(Extortion), Khanjir (Knife), Kothla (Intestines), Ghode(Horses), Virat (Huge), Ativirat (Monumental), Vede(Insane), Achat (Stupefying), Puchat (Lame), cousin Thackeray can only introduce an alternative for Garba, a Marathi game ‘Bhondala’.This is height of imagination! Otherwise they will continue playing this game of passing the baton and inking the faces. Now, it’s up to everyone to decide how long are we going to associate ourselves with Thackeray’s and how long are we going to tolerate them?
One thing I have excluded in this article that one more Thackeray, daughter-in-law of Balasaheb became influential in 1995 for few years when Shivsena came to power. For that period, Chief-Minister of Maharashtra changed. She was influencer in politics but not for long. So, I excluded her in my article. I request the readers to grant me that freedom. Amen.
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