Aditya Thackeray was the first member of the Thackeray family to contest and win an election. He came to national limelight after the Aarey Forest issue during last NDA govt in Maharashtra. In 2019, after the divorce of Shiv Sena from BJP, he became a Cabinet ranked minister in Maha Vikas Agadi govt.
Aditya Thackeray has earned the online moniker of “Baby Penguin” in recent times. Unfortunately, he has been thin skinned about it and has even set police after people for calling him “Baby Penguin” online. However, very few people outside Maharashtra know why Aditya was named “Baby Penguin” by his detractors. Initially the writer thought that this was in some way connected to his appearance or foibles. However, the name has its genesis in a tragedy that happened a few years ago.
The Penguins in Mumbai
In 2016, a proposal was made to bring the Humboldt Penguins, a native species of South America to Byculla Zoo, also known as Jijamata Udyaan. The initiative was reportedly a pet project of Aditya Thackeray. Reportedly, crores of rupees were spent on the infrastructure and import of Penguins from South America. The penguins named — Donald, Daisy, Popeye, Olive, Flipper, Bubble, Mr Molt and Dory — came from their cool habitats of Chile coast in South America to hot and humid Mumbai.
Within a few days, Dory, an 18 month old penguin died of bacterial infection, which it reportedly contracted due to change in its habitat. The first penguin kid that hatched in the zoo also died in a few days. The NCP, then in opposition, ran a campaign which featured posters like this.
The slogan “Maroon Dakhval!” or “See, you killed it!” was a jibe at Shiv Sena’s “Karun Dakhwal” or “See, we did it!” and “Victory to the Prince!” was a jibe at Aditya. The bow and arrow symbol of Shiv Sena was also featured in the poster as killing the penguin. The name got new lease of life in 2020, when someone on twitter referred to Aditya as Baby Penguin. Police filed an FIR against the man! This was in a state, where police handed over defenceless sadhus to the mob for lynching in Palghar. If there ever is a case study on misplaced priorities, Maharashtra Police should certainly be a part of it.
From Balasaheb Thackeray being called “Hindu Tiger” to Aditya Thackeray being called “Baby Penguin”, the Shiv Sena has traversed a huge distance, ideologically. Balasaheb was a cartoonist, and no doubt traded barbs with his detractors. Aditya could learn a thing or two from his grandfather.
Even in his own alliance, Rahul Gandhi has never reacted so drastically to him being called names. PM Modi, of course, has been called a large variety of distasteful names. What Aditya Thackeray has got from this episode is an important lesson in “Streisand Effect” and a nickname that is now irrevocably stuck to him.