A Thackeray daughter-in-law debuts in electoral politics

April 7th, 2009 - 12:41 pm ICT by IANS  

Raj Thackeray By Quaid Najmi
Mumbai, April 7 (IANS) She is a Punjabi born in Uttar Pradesh, but she has been fielded in the Lok Sabha elections by the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS), a party widely perceived to be anti-north Indian. What’s more, she is a Thackeray.

Shalini Thackeray, 40, is the first daughter-in-law from the politically powerful Maharashtrian family to enter the heat and dust of electoral politics.

She is the wife of Jeetendra Thackeray, a cousin of MNS founder Raj. Going around her constituency of Mumbai North West, meeting people from all walks of life, she seeks to dispel many myths about herself and her chosen party.

“I am into this because of my conviction and faith in Raj’s policies and his vision for Maharashtra,” she said.

“(There is this) wrong image that my party is against north Indians living or working in the state, or that I am a novice from the Thackeray family entering politics just for kicks. Mind you, I have been working with MNS for three years and heading my family business for many years, so I am no Rabri Devi,” Thackeray said and smiled.

Thackeray told IANS that contrary to certain perceptions, MNS was simply against the unchecked influx of people into Mumbai and elsewhere in Maharashtra.

“We are not against any group or community or caste or religion, but against influx. Uncontrolled influx leads to a spurt in crime and builds pressures on the state’s limited resources such as water supply, housing and infrastructure.

“If I am elected as MP, I shall definitely examine how to tackle this issue without compromising anybody’s interests,” Thackeray said.

Her qualifications - including an MBA in marketing from Massachusetts - have made her realise the importance of better coordination among elected representatives at the municipal, assembly and parliament levels to solve people’s problems effectively.

“Apart from being concerned with national or international issues, why can’t the MP be concerned about local issues? I shall initiate appropriate steps to ensure that even MPs can exercise some authority or control over local developmental issues,” said Shalini.

The third important cause she promises to champion concerns women. Though women have made great strides, Thackeray feels that a lot needs to be done on the education, health and financial fronts.

Thackeray is unfazed by the stalwarts pitted against her, including Shiv Sena’s Gajanan Kirtikar, the Congress’ Gurudas Kamat, the Samajwadi Party’s Abu Asim Azmi and others.

When Raj Thackeray launched the MNS three years ago, like many other professionals and technocrats, she too joined him and worked in and around Mumbai’s north-western suburbs.

She hails from a family of freedom fighters who were displaced during India’s partition.

Born in Bareilly town in Uttar Pradesh into a Punjabi family as Shalini Bhagat, her grandfather Bhagat Ram Talwar was a confidant of Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose.

She married Jitendra Thackeray, a former Ranji cricketer whose grandfather Damodar was the uncle of Shiv Sena chief Bal Thackeray.

Before joining the MNS, Shalini was engrossed in the family’s traditional business.

“I can prepare both ‘puran poli’ (traditional Marathi sweet dish) and ‘pakora curry’ (a Punjabi accompaniment) with ease,” she said. “I think I fit the MNS ideology to the core.”

(Quaid Najmi can be contacted at q.najmi@ians.in)

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