Uddhav Thackeray: From wildlife photography to Maharashtra’s top job

By Subhro Majumder

The youngest of Balasaheb Thackeray’s three sons, Uddhav Thackeray, now 59, was happy pursuing his passion for wildlife photography when the Shiv Sena-BJP government came to power for the first time in 1995. A quiet person by nature, whenever party workers urged him to deliver a speech, he would pass on the responsibility to his charismatic cousin Raj. However, when his eldest brother Bindumadhav died in a road accident in 1996, Thackeray came to stay with his father at Matoshree, where Smita Thackeray, wife of second brother Jaidev, called the shots.

Thackeray’s interest in politics, began only in 1999 when the Sena-BJP lost to the Congress-Nationalist Congress Party combine. In the next five years, he emerged as Balasaheb’s chosen heir and was appointed executive president of the party in 2003. Thackeray may have been shy and soft-spoken, but had very clear ideas. He was keen on rebuilding the Sena as a party that believed in inclusive development rather than being known as a party of stone-pelters. In 2003, Thackeray launched a campaign called Mee Mumbaikar’, aimed at including people of all religions and regions in the development of Mumbai. He also started touring the state in an attempt to widen his acceptability among the Shiv Sena leaders and cadre.

That became a point of contention between him and Raj, who expected Thackeray to stay away from his territory’, consisting of Thane, Pune and Nashik. Around the same time, Thackeray began dictating terms to former chief minister Narayan Rane, asserting his authority in the party.

Both Rane and Raj quit the Sena in 2005. Thackeray assumed full control of the party in late 2007 after Balasaheb stopped stepping out of Matoshree on account of ill health. Uddhav has freed the Sena of the gang of extortionists was Balasaheb’s biggest compliment to his son.

With absolute control over the party and the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC), Thackeray started implementing his vision for the city. He made the BMC construct tunnels instead of pipelines to carry drinking water and set up three pumping stations to prevent the city from flooding in the monsoons. It’s a different matter that the stations prove useful only if the rainfall is moderate, and Thackeray and the BMC become the subject of criticism whenever the city gets flooded.

Since 2009, Thackeray has also been rooting for loan waivers for Maharashtra’s farmers. When Sharad Pawar was president of the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI), Thackeray criticised him for allowing day and night matches in the IPL while farmers were struggling to get electricity at night. “I don’t understand anything about farming, but I know how to wipe out farmers” sorrows, he says whenever asked about his vision for agriculture. Thackeray’s opposition to a chemical refinery and nuclear power project in Konkan, however, have painted him as an anti-industry politician.

Uddhav Thackeray is married to Rashmi Thackeray and has two sons, Aditya and Tejas. Aditya Thackeray is the president of the Yuva Sena and newly elected Member of Legislative Assembly.

His photo book Maharashtra Desha (2010), full of breathtaking aerial shots is a glimpse into the cultural fabric, physical beauty and historical perspective of this wondrous state of Maharashtra. Pahava Vitthal (2011) capturing various aspects of rural Maharashtra and the Warkaris during Pandharpur Wari pilgrimage has also been received very well by national and international audiences. He also exhibited a deeper commitment to larger issues when he raised funds for farmer drought relief and wild life conservation through his photography exhibitions.

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About the author

Subhro Majumder is a Content Writer who is a sports and technology enthusiast. His other varied interests often sway him into reading about history, politics and international relations.

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