Pawars, Thackerays, Mundes - uncle-nephew tussles not new in Maharashtra

From left: Uddhav Thackeray, Sharad Pawar react at press conference | Photo: Kamlesh Pednekar

Sharad Pawar-Ajit Pawar, Bal Thackeray-Raj Thackeray, Gopinath Munde-Dhananjay Munde.

Troubled uncle-nephew relationships have rocked the boat of more than one party trying to steer its way through Maharashtra's troubled political waters with the crisis in the NCP only the latest in the series.

The mentor-protege equation of uncles with their nephews has slipped into unpleasant territory in the struggle for power in not just the NCP but also the Shiv Sena and the BJP.

On Saturday, Ajit Pawar broke rank with the NCP to defy his uncle and party patriarch Sharad Pawar and took oath as Maharashtra deputy chief minister.

His rebellion and the decision to back the BJP not only rattled the NCP -- the junior Pawar wields considerable influence in the party -- but also in the close knit Pawar family.

After his brother Anant Rao was killed, Sharad Pawar took his son Ajit Pawar under his wing. In 1991, Ajit Pawar first contested and won the parliamentary polls from Baramati. He gave up the seat for his uncle when he became Defence minister in the P V Narasimha Rao government in 1991.

That was just the beginning.

Ajit Pawar, a seven-time MLA and also former deputy chief minister, was seen as a political heir to the NCP chief but tensions started building up after Sharad Pawar's daughter Supriya Sule entered politics and have refused to subside since.

The Thackeray family saw a similar feud about a decade ago when the tussle between Uddhav Thackeray and Raj Thackeray on who would lead the Shiv Sena vertically split the Shiv Sena. Bal Thackeray chose son over nephew and the rest, as they say, is history.

Tipped to be Bal Thackeray's heir, Raj Thackeray mirrored his uncle in his speeches, mannerism and also his aggressive politics. In comparison, Uddhav Thackeray was seen to be very mild.

But when the uncle opted for the son, a miffed Raj Thackeray went to form the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena in 2006, inflicting damage to the Shiv Sena in the early years and costing it dearly in the 2009 parliamentary and assembly polls.

Raj Thackeray is currently down but not considered out with many still viewing him as a force to be reckoned with.

Like Ajit Pawar and Raj Thackeray, Dhananjay Munde, too, was tipped to inherit the legacy of his late uncle, BJP leader Gopinath Munde.

In 2009, when Gopinath Munde, a mass OBC leader, won from Beed, most thought that he would field his nephew Dhananjay for the assembly polls.

Instead, he fielded his daughter Pankaja Munde from the Parli assembly seat.

This widened the rift between uncle and nephew and Dhananjay Munde joined the NCP, becoming Ajit Pawar's protg. He was later made leader of opposition in the Legislative Council.

After Gopinath Munde's death, the rivalry between often made it to the headlines. In 2014, Pankaja Munde defeated her cousin from Parli. In 2019, he, in turn, defeated her.

There are other instances.

In the assembly polls held last month, Shiv Sena's Jaydutt Kshirsagar was defeated by his nephew and NCP candidate Sandeep Kshirsagar from the Beed seat.

"In the case of Munde, Raj it was the son or daughter who were chosen over the apparent heir which affected the ties between uncles and nephews," said senior journalist Prakash Akolkar who authored the book "Jai Maharashtra- A history of Shiv Sena".

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