Aditya Thackeray, the Shiv Sena's youth leader and son of party chief Uddhav Thackeray, is on tour aimed at launching him as the party's chief ministerial face in Maharashtra, where elections are due later this year. Here is what he told NDTV about his plans.
Q: Are you the next Chief Ministerial candidate?
Aditya Thackeray: This yatra is about thanking the people for the love they've shown us. People have come out on the streets to bless us. Elections are three months away, all this will happen then.
Q: Are you contesting elections?
Aditya Thackeray: If the people want that, I will be open to that. There is a deliberation within the party and the cadre, but right now I am here to seek aashirwad.
Q: This election a game changer for Shiv Sena and are you ready to take the mantle?
Aditya Thackeray: I have been in the field for nine years and I love what I am doing. This is a field where you can impact a million lives with a simple decision. We are at the brink of a new age where Maharashtra can go forward in leaps and bounds or stagnate as it did in the previous government's 15 years.
Q: You have been focussing on youth, women and farmers in your speeches. How are you taking that forward?
Aditya Thackeray: We are addressing issues locally as well as policy wise. There was an issue in Solapur that was pending for 19 years and there was a drought situation because of that. I went there and met the delegation and in the next six months, the area will be drought-free. The focus is on listening to people, not telling them anything.
Q: Who all will join this 4,000 km yatra?
Aditya Thackeray: The leaders of the Shiv Sena and the leaders of the alliance. Whoever wants to join in is more than welcome. We want to listen to the people's voice. Normally we go to them during elections and tell them what is in our minds. I am trying to figure out what is in their minds, their aspirations for the new Maharashtra that I am trying to build. For me personally, this is a tirth yatra (pilgrimage). I am seeking everyone's blessings, and for those of us in politics, our real god lies in the people.
Q: You invoked Balasaheb in your speech?
Aditya Thackeray: I remember him when I am on these yatras because I started off in politics sitting next to him in meetings and rallies like this. There is that bit of nostalgia whenever I start off on these tours.
Q: Are you expanding beyond Maharashtra?
Aditya Thackeray: We are expanding beyond the state. We've fought elections in UP, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat and Goa and even Bengal. Each of these minds and hearts that are speaking to me, their aspirations will be heard.
Senior Shiv Sena leader Sanjay Raut also spoke to NDTV
Q: Does every Shiv Sainik want Aditya to be Chief Minister?
Sanjay Raut: When a Shiv Sainik decides to do something, they make sure they do it. The next Chief Minister of Maharashtra will be from Sena and this will happen.
Q: Is the next Chief Minister sitting next to us?
Sanjay Raut: This is what Maharashtra Shiv Sainiks feel. The people of Maharashtra have accepted and loved the Thackeray family for 15 years and they will want this to happen? Our next generation is Aditya and we want him to lead.