How Shinde's rebellion has split Shiv Sena families

Families of leaders reflect the split in Sena leadership

20-Nihar-Thackeray Nihar Thackeray | Amey Mansabdar

In Maharashtra, the split in the Shiv Sena has not been limited to party cadre and assets alone. Even families have split up based on their affiliations to either Chief Minister Eknath Shinde or former chief minister Uddhav Thackeray.

The most prominent example: the Thackeray family itself. The family of Shiv Sena founder Balasaheb Thackeray’s eldest son Bindumadhav, who died in a road accident in 1996, has joined hands with Shinde. Bindumadhav’s son Nihar Thackeray was one of the first from the Thackeray family to join the Shinde camp last year. A lawyer, Nihar is part of the team representing Shinde in the Supreme Court.

Ties between Nihar and Uddhav’s families had been cordial. Nihar’s mother, Madhavi, moved out of Matoshree in the years following her husband’s death, and raised her son away from the political spotlight. Nihar completed his commerce and law degrees from Narsee Monjee Institute of Management Studies and Government Law College in Mumbai, and studied international arbitration at the London School of Economics. He has been running his own law firm in Mumbai since 2017.

Apart from the senior leaders, scores of Shiv Sainiks across the state as well are witnessing political divisions in their families.

On Dussehra last October, when Uddhav and his son, Aaditya, were addressing Shiv Sainiks at Shivaji Park, Nihar chose to attend Eknath Shinde’s rally at the Bandra Kurla Complex ground. He said he had decided to join hands with Shinde as the latter was taking forward the legacy of Balasaheb, his grandfather.

Married to BJP leader Harshvardhan Patil’s daughter, Nihar is seen as the Shinde camp’s trump card against Aaditya. It is said that he is being groomed to take on his cousin in Worli in the 2024 assembly polls.

On the other hand, Jaydeep Thackeray, son of Uddhav’s estranged brother Jaidev, has decided to support Uddhav. While Jaidev shared the dais with Shinde at the Dussehra rally, Jaydeep attended Uddhav’s rally at Shivaji Park.

The split in the Shiv Sena has also divided the family of Gajanan Kirtikar, MP. A Shiv Sainik from the Sena’s formative years, Kirtikar joined the Shinde group in November 2022. He was the last to join the fold, which has 13 MPs now. Kirtikar’s son Amol has remained loyal to Uddhav and is a close aide of Aaditya.

When he joined the Shinde camp, Kirtikar told journalists that he had taken the decision after brainstorming with “karyakartas (activists)” in his constituency. He said that he always had doubts about Uddhav’s decision to join hands with the Congress and the Nationalist Congress Party, because it was something that was against the very DNA of the Shiv Sena.

“Uddhav is the real gaddaar (traitor),” said Kirtikar at a rally in Khed on March 19. “He is finishing off the Shiv Sena by joining hands with those against whom Balasaheb campaigned all his life. Uddhav is out to finish off the Sena. Only those who are under obligations are with him; all others are with us.”

His son Amol, however, disagreed. He told THE WEEK that he had tried hard to prevent his father from joining the Shinde group. “My father may have gone to the other side, but I am firmly with Uddhav ji and Aaditya. I tried to stop my father, but I realised that it would not work as he has always been an independent-minded person. Also, it would have caused arguments and bitterness in the family.”

Amol said he did not follow in his father’s footsteps because of Aaditya. “We have been working together for many years. I told my father. ‘Your decision is not going to affect my decision,’” he said.

The family of senior Sena leader Ramdas Kadam, too, is divided. Ramdas and his son Yogesh, a legislator, are with Shinde, while his brother Sadanand Kadam supports Uddhav. Sadanand was recently arrested by the Enforcement Directorate in a case related to money laundering.

Sadanand’s rise in the Sena began after Ramdas became a minister in the first Sena-BJP government in 1997. With Ramdas’s help, Sadanand grew his business in Mumbai and the Konkan region, and became close to Anil Parab, former Sena minister and close confidant of Uddhav. After the split in the Sena following Shinde’s rebellion, Ramdas and Yogesh joined hands with Shinde, while Sadanand remained loyal to Uddhav and Parab. After Sadanand was arrested by the ED on March 10, Uddhav loyalist Sanjay Raut, MP, said the arrest happened because Sadanand had organised a massive rally of Uddhav supporters at Khed in early March. Khed is Ramdas and Yogesh’s home turf, and they were apparently afraid of losing elections.

The family of former industries minister Subhash Desai has been the most recent to undergo a split. A Sena veteran and Uddhav’s confidant, Desai received a blow when his son Bhushan joined the Shinde camp recently. In a hurriedly issued statement, Desai said his son’s decision had caused him a lot of pain. “But his [Bhushan’s] decision to join any party will not have any impact on Uddhav and our party, as he was never active in politics. My loyalty to the Shiv Sena, Balasaheb and Uddhav ji remains unwavering. I will continue to work with the Shiv Sainiks to bring the glory days back to the Sena,” he said.

Ramdas Kadam | Amey Mansabdar Ramdas Kadam | Amey Mansabdar

Bhushan said he took the decision after consulting his father. “Balasaheb is like a deity for us Shiv Sainiks,” he said. “Shinde is taking his thoughts and ideology forward. Considering the speed with which Shinde is working, taking decisions and implementing them, I firmly believe in him.”

Insiders say Bhushan has not been active in politics. He had played a key role in decision-making when his father was industries minister―first in the BJP-Sena government from 2014 to 2019, and then in the Maha Vikas Aghadi government from 2019 to 2022. Sources said Bhushan may have joined the Shinde group to avert inquiries into the decisions. But Bhushan denied it.

Apart from the senior leaders, scores of Shiv Sainiks across the state as well are witnessing political divisions in their families. Ganesh Paradke, who was the Shiv Sena’s Nandurbar district chief, has remained loyal to Uddhav; his brother Vijay, who is the Sena’s zilla parishad member, is now with Shinde. Similarly, Pachora MLA Kishor Patil is with Shinde, while his cousin Vaishali Suryawanshi, daughter of two-term Sena legislator Tatyasaheb Patil, has remained loyal to Uddhav.

According to political analyst Prakash Akolkar, the familial splits have no ideological basis. “Subhash Desai’s son Bhushan was never active in the Shiv Sena, and neither was Nihar Thackeray,” said Akolkar. “The only person who can seriously claim to have been active in politics is Amol Kirtikar, and he has chosen to remain with the Thackerays for his own political future. Securing one’s future is the essential thought behind all these realignments.”