Raj Thackeray

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Raj Shrikant Thackeray
Raj at MNS Koli Festival.jpg
Founder, Leader and Chairperson of the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena
Assumed office
19 March 2006
Personal details
Born Swararaj Thackeray[1]
(1968-06-14) 14 June 1968 (age 47)
Mumbai, Maharashtra, India
Political party Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (2006–present)
Other political
Shiv Sena (before 2006)
Spouse(s) Sharmila Thackeray
Children Amit Thackeray (son)
Urvashi Thackeray (daughter)
Parents Shrikant Thackeray & Kunda Thackeray
Alma mater University of Mumbai
Profession Politician, illustrator

Raj Shrikant Thackeray (born as Swararaj Shrikant Thackeray) is an Indian politician and the founder and president of the right-wing Marathi ethnocentric regional political party, the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena ("Maharashtra Reformation Army") in the state of Maharashtra, India. He is the nephew of Bal Thackeray, and a cousin of Uddhav Thackeray, the current leader and chairperson of the Shiv Sena.

Early life[edit]

Raj Thackeray's commonly used name is a contraction of Swararaj. His parents were Shrikant Thackeray (younger brother of Bal Thackeray) and Kunda Thackeray (younger sister of Bal Thackeray's wife Meena Thackeray). As a child he learnt the tabla, the guitar and the violin. He also contributed cartoons to Marmik, the weekly magazine of Bal Thackeray.[1][non-primary source needed]

Political career[edit]

Raj Thackeray resigned from his uncle's party in January 2006 and announced his intention to start a new political party. On 9 March 2006 in Mumbai, Thackeray founded party named "Maharashtra Navnirman Sena". At the time of the party's foundation, Thackeray stated that he does not want to have hostilities with his uncle who "was, is and always will be (his) mentor".[citation needed]

Political Views[edit]

Marathi identity[edit]

Raj Thackeray and his party, Maharashtra Navnirman Sena, state that Maharashtra State, Marathi language and Marathi Manoos are subverted by the influence of Marathi politicians.[2]

Opposition to immigrants[edit]

Raj Thackeray has opposed immigration into Maharashtra from Uttar Pradesh and Bihar.[3]

Violence in Agitations[edit]

Raj Thackery and his party have been criticized for use of violence during their agitations, especially directed towards immigrants from UP and Bihar. On use of violence, Thackeray says that violence is a part of all agitations in Indian politics, and there are several cases of much more violence carried out by other parties and organisations. According to him, the incidences of violence involving members of his party have been unduly highlighted by North Indian politicians and journalists.[3]

Support to Narendra Modi[edit]

Thackeray has praised former Gujarat Chief Minister and Prime Minister of India, Narendra Modi for his governance, and the development of Gujarat during his tenure as chief minister. In August 2008, Raj Thackeray visited Gujarat on a 9-day trip as 'state guest' to study the development in Gujarat. He also advised politicians in Maharashtra, irrespective of party, to take lessons from Modi and Gujarat.[4] He has also expressed support for Modi for the post Prime Minister of India for the 2014 Lok Sabha (general) election.[5]

Controversies & Agitations[edit]

2008 violence against UP & Bihar[edit]

In February 2008 Raj Thackeray led a violent movement[6][7] in what was labelled an andolan (uprising/protest) against the dominance of migrants from the North Indian states of Uttar Pradesh and Bihar in Maharashtra and more so in its commercial capital of Mumbai. His party and Shiv Sena banned Australian cricketers participating in IPL 3 from playing in Mumbai as a protest against the attack on Indian students down under.[8] At a rally in Shivaji Park, Raj warned that if the dadagiri (intimidating dominance) of these people in Mumbai and Maharashtra continued, he would be compelled to make them leave the metropolis.[9] Raj was arrested along with a Samajwadi Party leader, Abu Azmi, for their involvement in the fracas, but was released on paying a penalty of 15,000 (US$230).

Acquittal in Kini murder case[edit]

In July 1996, Ramesh Kini was found dead in a cinemahall Talkies in Pune. Kini was a tenant in a ramshackle tenement in central Mumbai, whose landlord, Laxmikant Shah, was trying to evict him. Shah also happened to be a close childhood friend of Raj Thackeray. A CBI enquiry was later issued for the case, but the CBI dismissed the case as one of suicide.[10]

Kohinoor mill controversy[edit]

Shiv Sena opposed sale of mill land, but Raj Thackeray bid for and won mill land in prime Mumbai real estate.[11] On 21 July 2005, Raj and Unmesh Joshi, son of Shiv Sena Leader Manohar Joshi purchased a five-acre plot of land, Kohinoor Mill No. 3, located across the road from the Shiv Sena party headquarters in Dadar, Mumbai for 4.21 billion (US$64 million). Mumbai NCP leader Sachin Ahir, objected to the sale of the Kohinoor Mill land, saying that there were forty bids, yet only three were short-listed. He demanded a re-bid as there was a lack of transparency in the move.[12]

Insistence on Marathi signboards for Mumbai shops[edit]

In July 2008, Raj issued a public warning that Mumbai shops needed to have Marathi signboards in addition to the existing English signboards. He warned that after one month, MNS workers would start blackening non-Marathi signboards. While there had been a law to this effect passed earlier by Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation, it had not been enforced.

Raj had also insisted that the Marathi signboards had to be at least as big as the English signboards. A number of big shopowners, notably Viren Shah (Roopam chain) went to court against this move. The high-court provided them relief, passing a judgement that the Marathi signboards did not have to be as big as English signboards.[13]

In September 2008, MNS workers resorted to blackening signboards, to enforce the demand, after which most shop owners complied. Six MNS workers were arrested but later released on bail. The Congress government was dilatory in filing chargesheets against them, following which the Maharashtra high-court passed strictures against the government. When the government prosecutor submitted in December that the chargesheets had not been filed as investigation was ongoing, the judge remarked sarcastically whether this was a murder case to warrant such long investigations, three months after the arrest of the MNS workers, but Raj was attempting to enforce a rule previously on the books.[14]

Reaction to Jaya Bachchan's controversial statement[edit]

The words of Jaya Bachchan, veteran actor and sitting Rajya Sabha MP of Samajwadi Party (with whom Raj's MNS has crossed swords a number of times), during the Music launch of the Hindi film Drona, were deemed hurtful by Raj Thackeray.

Jaya's words 'Hum UP (Uttar Pradesh) ke log hain, isliye Hindi mein baat karenge, Maharashtra ke log Maaf Kijiye' (We are people of UP, so we will speak in Hindi. People of Maharashtra, please excuse) after her candid response to the film's director, Goldie Behl, making his introductory speech in English and subsequently encouraging the actress Priyanka Chopra to speak in Hindi.[15]

Raj commented that Jaya had no business alluding to all the people of Maharashtra in that statement. He threatened to ban all Bachchan films unless Jaya apologised in a public forum for hurting Maharashtrians. MNS workers began to attack theatres screening The Last Lear starring Jaya Bachchan's husband, Amitabh Bachchan. Shivsena MP Sanjay Raut also criticized Jaya's statement saying: "After making all your success & fortune in Mumbai, if you feel like saying that, its very unfortunate." It was only after Amitabh tendered an apology that the screening resumed.[16]

Following Raj's threat, Mumbai police acted against Raj, issuing a gag order preventing him from speaking to the media.[17]

Against Jet Airways layoffs[edit]

In October 2008, on the eve of the major Indian festival Diwali, Jet Airways laid off 800 temporary workers and announced layoffs of an additional 1100 workers. The laid-off workers included Marathi as well as North-Indians. These workers met Raj Thackeray and asked him to intervene.

Following this, Raj Thackeray declared that most of these workers had paid security deposits to the company, and he would meet Jet management to plead their case. Unless Jet Airways cancelled the layoffs, his party would not allow any Jet Airways plane to take off from any airport in Maharashtra.[18]

Within 12 hours of Raj Thackeray's declaration, Jet chairman Naresh Goyal reversed the layoffs and reinstated the sacked employees. He claimed that he did it on his own and that there was no political pressure on him. Leftist Unions, Shivsena & Civil Aviation minister Praful Patel later tried to take credit for the decision. On announcement of the layoffs, Praful Patel had claimed that he had no jurisdiction over the layoffs issue.[19] Sacked Jet employees on the other hand stated that they were warned by Jet management not to meet Raj Thackeray to thank him after reinstatement.[20]

Remarks on Chhath Puja and migrants[edit]

Raj reproached North Indian leaders for politicizing Chhath Puja, a festival popular in eastern Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, and Jharkhand calling it a "drama" and a "show of numerical strength". He stated that the Chhath Puja was a political gimmick by some parties to attract the north Indian vote. He questioned the motives by citing that the puja is performed on the banks of a river, not the sea as it was being performed.[21] He demanded that they only celebrate Maharashtra day and not UP day in Maharashtra. A petition was filed in the Patna civil court on 8 February against him for his remarks.[22] His statements drew flak from political leaders across the board, especially those from the North Indian states. The then Indian Railways minister and former chief minister of Bihar, Lalu Prasad Yadav, vowed that he would come to Mumbai and perform Chhath Puja in front of Raj's house, which he failed to perform. He also ridiculed Raj saying, "He [Raj] is a child in politics".[21] The Navnirman Sena leader accused migrants of swamping Maharashtra, India's most industrialised state, in search of jobs.[23]

The MNS chief also accused migrants of disrespecting the local culture. On 9 February, expressing his stance on new migrants settling in Mumbai, Raj said, "New immigrants to the city should be denied entry into the city, while those already staying here should show respect to the Marathi 'manoos' and his culture".[24]

Mumbai-Bombay controversy: Wake Up Sid[edit]

On 2 October 2009, MNS workers disrupted the screening of the film Wake Up Sid on its release in a few Pune and Mumbai theatres, after Raj objected to references in the movie to "Bombay" rather than "Mumbai". The city of Mumbai was referred to as "Bombay" in many scenes[25] and in some songs (lyrics by Javed Akhtar). The film's producer, Karan Johar, visited Raj's residence to apologise, and agreed to all of Raj's terms, including an apology on each of the 700 frames in the film.[26]

MLA attacked in Maharashtra State Assembly[edit]

On 9 November 2009, during the oath-taking ceremony of the Maharashtra State Legislative Assembly, MLAs from MNS physically attacked Samajwadi party leader, MLA Abu Asim Azmi, as he began his oath in Hindi instead of Marathi. Having been provoked by Abu Azmi that he would not take the oath as legislator in Marathi, Raj Thackeray had earlier warned the legislators to "take their oaths in Marathi only or else face dire consequences". Azmi was pushed, punched and slapped by MNS legislators even as other legislators who tried to protect Azmi were pushed away. Other slogan-shouting MNS members displayed cloth banners they had smuggled into the house and also damaged the fittings on legislators' desks. Condemning the incident, the Assembly swiftly passed a resolution suspending the four MNS legislators — Shishir Shinde, Ramesh Wanjale, Ram Kadam and Vasant Gite for four years. They were also barred from entering Mumbai and Nagpur whenever the assembly met in the two cities. Abu Azmi was the only MLA the MNS members protested against; they did not object to members who took their oath in other languages such as Sanskrit and English.[27]

Demand for introduction of Telecom customer service in Marathi[edit]

Telecom companies in Maharashtra had been providing customer service in English & Hindi only. Raj demanded that all telecom companies operating in Maharashtra start providing the service in Marathi also and set a deadline of 27 February 2010, after which his party MNS would launch an agitation. Following this demand, all telecom companies complied, introducing Marathi as an additional option in their customer service.[28]

Kalyan Dombivali 2010 Elections[edit]

Raj Thackeray had a spat with his uncle Bal Thackeray during election rallies for the first time since the inception of MNS. Both the parties declared war of words. The result of election were MNS winning 28 seats and Shiv Sena winning 31 seats.

Dadoji Konddeo Statue in Pune[edit]

The Congress-NCP coalition which rules the Pune civic body had passed a resolution removal of the statue of Konddev who is considered as the "guru" of Shivaji Maharaj. Accordingly, the statue was removed on the night of Sunday,26 Dec 2010 from Lal Mahal in Pune when Thackeray said the Congress-NCP had used the controversy over role of Dadoji Konddeo in Chhatrapati Shivaji's life to divert attention from other issues.

Maharashtra-Karnataka Border Issue[edit]

In Dec 2011, Raj Thackeray meeting a group from MES (Maharshtra Ekikaran Samiti) advised them that they should revisit their stand of merging Belgaum with Maharashtra in the interest of marathi speaking people of Belgaum. In a major departure from the earlier held stand of traditional right wing groups of Maharashtra, Raj Thackeray pointed out that a practical approach rather than an emotional one is the need of the hour. However, he advocated that if the supreme court itself gives a decision in favor of Belgaum's merger, he would welcome it but the local situation in belgaum should not be vitiated for the sake of it. He asked the MES leaders to first identify the real issue as to whether marathis in belgaum are being targeted for espousing the cause of marathi language or because they were supporting the merger of belgaum with Maharashtra. Lamenting that strikes and bandhs only add to the misery of the Marathi-speaking community in Belgaum, Thackeray said: "If the Karnataka government is ready to respect the Marathi people, their culture and language, then there is nothing wrong in Belgaum being there."[29] His comments were strongly criticized by his cousin Uddhav Thackeray as a cruel joke on the marathi manoos.[30]

Personal life[edit]

Raj is married to Sharmila Wagh, daughter of Marathi Cinema Photographer, producer-director Mohan Wagh. They have one son named Amit Thackeray and one daughter Urvashi Thackeray.[31]


  1. ^ a b MNS official website Accessed October 2011.
  2. ^ MNS official website Accessed October 2011.
  3. ^ a b "Do political movements need to obey the law? What about Advani rath yatra, Modi’s Godhra outrage?" ExpressIndia.com. Retrieved 25 October 2011
  4. ^ NDTV.com (3 August 2011). "Narendra Modi gives Raj Thackeray 'State Guest' status". Retrieved 25 October 2011. 
  5. ^ NDTV.com (3 August 2011). ["http://www.ndtv.com/article/india/raj-thackeray-pitches-modi-for-pm-uncle-furious-134931" "Raj Thackeray pitches Modi for PM, uncle furious"] Check |url= scheme (help). Retrieved 25 October 2011. 
  6. ^ Agencies (24 October 2008). "Murder case filed against Raj Thackeray in Bihar". Express India. Retrieved 29 December 2010. 
  7. ^ CNN-IBN (24 February 2008). "Raj says violence is legit, slams BJP leaders". IBN Politics. Retrieved 29 December 2010. 
  8. ^ NDTV India/ New Delhi 22 July 2005 (14 January 2010). "Shiv Sena targets Australians in IPL". NDTV India. Retrieved 4 August 2010. 
  9. ^ "Raj Thackeray dares Maharashtra govt on north Indians' stand". NDTV. 3 May 2008. Retrieved 6 January 2009. Addressing a crowded public meeting at Shivaji Park in central Mumbai, the place where his uncle and Shiv Sena chief Bal Thackeray addresses his annual Dussehra rallies, Raj warned if the dadagiri of north Indians in Mumbai and Maharashtra continued, he would be compelled to make them leave the metropolis. 
  10. ^ "Rediff On The NeT: Dilip D'Souza on the Ramesh Kini case". Rediff.com. Retrieved 28 July 2010. 
  11. ^ Indian Express/ Mumbai;22 July 2005 (22 July 2005). "Sena opposes mill sale, its leaders buy one". Indian Express. Retrieved 4 August 2010. 
  12. ^ Renni Abraham / Mumbai 22 July 2005 (22 July 2005). "Kohinoor Mill sold for Rs 421 cr". Business-standard.com. Retrieved 28 July 2010. 
  13. ^ Rao, Shashank (16 February 2009). "Big Marathi signboards not necessary". Mid-day.com. Retrieved 28 July 2010. 
  14. ^ "Marathi signboards issue: 'Is this a murder trial?'". Indianexpress. 5 December 2008. Retrieved 28 July 2010. 
  15. ^ "rediff.com: Jaya Bachchan's controversial clip". Specials.rediff.com. Retrieved 28 July 2010. 
  16. ^ "Khaleej Times Online". Khaleejtimes.com. 16 October 2009. Retrieved 28 July 2010. 
  17. ^ "Gag order issued against Raj Thackeray". The Economic Times. 8 September 2008. Retrieved 2 September 2012. 
  18. ^ “” (25 May 2008). "Raj Thakre Helps Jet Airways Staff". YouTube. Retrieved 28 July 2010. 
  19. ^ “”. "Jet airways Employees vow Raj Thakre for jobs". YouTube. Retrieved 28 July 2010. 
  20. ^ "Jet barred us from meeting Raj Thackeray: Crew". news.outlookindia.com. Retrieved 28 July 2010. 
  21. ^ a b "Jaya takes on Raj; MNS, SP activists clash in Mumbai". The Hindu. 3 February 2008. Retrieved 4 April 2008. 
  22. ^ "Petition against Raj Thackeray in Patna court". Zee News. Retrieved 4 April 2008. 
  23. ^ "Right-wing Mumbai leader arrested". BBC NEWS. 13 February 2008. Retrieved 26 July 2008. 
  24. ^ "'Respect Marathi ban-manoos or leave Mumbai'". Rediff. 9 February 2008. Retrieved 4 April 2008. 
  25. ^ "Front Page News: Wednesday, July 28, 2010". The Hindu (Chennai, India). 3 October 2009. Retrieved 28 July 2010. 
  26. ^ "Wake Up Sid in trouble: Rediff.com Movies". Movies.rediff.com. 2 October 2009. Retrieved 28 July 2010. 
  27. ^ "Azmi attacked over Hindi oath, four MNS members suspended". The Hindustan Times. 9 November 2009. Retrieved 9 November 2009. 
  28. ^ Anthony, Bobby (18 February 2010). "Cellular companies to have Marathi voice assistance". Mid-day.com. Retrieved 28 July 2010. 
  29. ^ "Let Belgaum be with Karnataka: Raj Thackeray – Mumbai – DNA". Dnaindia.com. 20 December 2011. Retrieved 22 September 2012. 
  30. ^ "Uddhav Thackeray runs to President, urges her to make Belgaum Union territory – Mumbai – DNA". Dnaindia.com. 21 December 2011. Retrieved 22 September 2012. 
  31. ^ "Raj Thackerey Personal Life". IndiaSite. Retrieved 20 April 2014. 

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