Mumbai, June 29
Very few people would have thought before the 2019 Assembly elections that Uddhav Thackeray had it in him to sever the ties with the old ally BJP, and become chief minister of Maharashtra as the head of an unlikely coalition with the NCP and Congress.
Two and a half years later, 62-year-old Thackeray's innings as chief minister came to an end after Eknath Shinde, a senior Shiv Sena leader, rebelled against him and a majority of Sena MLAs joined the rebel camp.
“Whatever I do, whether I desire it or not.... I do it with determination,” Thackeray had said during his Facebook Live on June 22.
This determination has been a constant all through his political career that saw Shiv Sena witnessing ups and downs since he first took over as the acting president and party chief after his father Bal Thackeray's death in 2012.
The youngest son of Bal Thackeray, Uddhav, also known as 'Digga', started helping his father in the party affairs in the early 1990s.
A soft-spoken and quiet politician, he was elevated to the post of executive party president in 2001 over his younger cousin Raj Thackeray, considered to be more charismatic.
This elevation led to splits in the party. Senior leader and former chief minister Narayan Rane quit in 2005, followed by Raj. But through these storms, the Shiv Sena managed to win the crucial Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation and Thane Municipal Corporation elections in 2002, 2007, 2012 and 2017.
When Bal Thackeray died in 2012, many party critics predicted that this would be the end of the Sena. But Uddhav Thackeray managed to hold the party together, and also led its transformation into a mature political outfit from its earlier avatar as a party of street fighters.
Known as an ace wildlife photographer, he also dabbled in aerial photography. Some pictures of forts in Maharashtra, taken by him, adorn the walls of the New Maharashtra Sadan in Delhi.
In 2014, when the Shiv Sena and BJP parted ways to contest polls independently, Thackeray spearheaded his party's campaign to emerge as the second largest party in the state assembly after the BJP. But later the Shiv Sena again joined hands with the BJP as latter formed government.
In 2019, the two parties split over the post of chief minister and the Shiv Sena joined hands with the Congress and the NCP.
Thackeray became chief minister of this tri-partite alliance, which many predicted will come apart very soon. Thackeray was also the first from the family to have occupied any public office.
His leadership during the worst phases of the coronavirus pandemic came in for praise. But a section of Shiv Sena leaders complained that he was inaccessible as party president and CM.
Several Sena leaders were also uncomfortable with the party's alliance with arch-foes Congress and NCP, which eventually proved to be the alliance's undoing.
Thackeray recently said he was never keen on becoming chief minister.
“I told Pawar saheb (NCP chief Sharad Pawar)…I go to the BMC for congratulating the mayor (after the mayoral election). How can I become the chief minister,” he said during the Facebook Live on June 22, a day after Shinde's rebellion broke out.
It will be interesting to see if Thackeray now succeeds in reviving the fortunes of his weakened party.
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