MUMBAI — Shiv Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray’s son Aaditya is leading in his constituency Worli, Mumbai by nearly 60,000 votes, bolstering his party’s dreams of making him the youngest chief minister of Maharashtra. His nearest rival is Congress-NCP supported BRSP’s Suresh Mane. Shiv Sena is leading in 68 out of Maharashtra’s 288 constituencies that went into polls.
If Thackeray wins, which seems quite likely at the moment, it could give his party a much-needed bargaining chip against alliance partner BJP, which could be restricted to 100 seats in the state if early trends are anything to go by. If BJP does fall way short of the 144 halfway mark, the Sena will be a clear kingmaker.
Buoyed by Thackeray’s lead, Shiv Sena leaders are already discussing staking claim on the chief minister’s post in Maharashtra. In which case, 29-year-old Aditya Thackeray will be the first of his family to be elected into the legislative assembly.
In the run up to the polls, it was speculated that Thackeray junior mishandling of the Aarey forest crisis could cost the Sena heavily, but BJP’s disappointing performance has made the Shiv Sena leader’s shot at a plum government role look promising.
Throughout the election campaign, Shiv Sena played the second fiddle to BJP and Uddhav Thackeray even had to apologise to his party men who were denied tickets due to the alliance.
However, Aaditya had his strategy read. He not only toured all corners of Maharashtra intensively under his “Jan Ashirvad Yatra”, he also roped in Prashant Kishor’s IPAC to manage his campaign.
“Shiv Sena played safe in this election. Now with BJP’s reduced tally, we have full freedom to play our cards. We will ask for the CM’s post and important portfolios. There is also scope for a Karanataka like experiment because BJP could fall short of the majority by around 40 seats,” a Shiv Sena MLC told HuffPost India, requesting anonymity.
While Thackeray was easily the face of the party in the run up to the elections, his real political test will be balancing their alliance with BJP and still making sure Shiv Sena is not sidelined again.