Who is Champa Singh Thapa who quit the Thackeray household to join the Eknath Shinde group?

In what is both a comedy and tragedy fast turning into a farce, the Eknath Shinde faction has inducted Champa Singh Thapa who used to serve as Bal Thackeray’s household help

Who is Champa Singh Thapa who quit the Thackeray household to join the Eknath Shinde group?

Sujata Anandan

In the late 1980s and the early 1990s, as Mumbai was racked by daily gang wars and shootouts, Shiv Sena supremo Bal Thackeray was the first to give a communal colour to sheer crime. He began to make a distinction between “Hindu dons" and "Muslim dons”. Of the latter there was only one – Dawood Ibrahim, who, nevertheless, had many Hindu lieutenants somehow deadlier than even Abu Salem who worked for Dawood or any of his own brothers and relatives in the gang.

Two of these were Chhota Rajan and Kim Bahadur Thapa. Thackeray in those days had been endorsing Arun Gawli, an independent gang leader from central Mumbai. But Gawli soon became politically ambitious and a rival to the Shiv Sena – he even contested the Maharashtra Assembly elections and became a nuisance to the local Shiv Sainiks.

However, before that, Kim Bahadur Thapa had been the one to recognise the political potential of being a criminal and had drawn closer to Thackeray, ending up as a party corporator in the early 1990s. He continued to be a Member of the D-gang simultaneously wherein Chhota Rajan too was attempting proximity to both Dawood and Thackeray. But one man stood in his way with regard to both ambitions – Kim Bahadur Thapa. 

In April 1992, he got Thapa gunned down in broad daylight just as he was leaving a restaurant after lunch in the Mulund-Bhandup area where he was a corporator. The assailants were arrested but Rajan had escaped abroad. Conveniently for Rajan, who was facing internal rivalry in the D-gang, his estrangement with Dawood came close on the heels of the Babri Masjid turmoil in the country. It proved a convenient excuse to split with the D-gang which had been behind the serial blasts of Mumbai in 1993 on precisely the premise of communalism in crime. 

Rajan complained that Dawood was discriminating between Hindus and Muslims in his gang when actually his grouse was that the mafia boss was promoting other Hindus like Thapa over Rajan who felt he had done much to corporatise the D-gang but did not receive much credit for his services.

Soon, Thackeray was holding him up as the exemplar of a ‘Hindu don’ in the country – bureaucrats of the time cringe even today recalling how Narayan Rane as CM would place calls from the CMO to Rajan on Thackeray’s instructions and demand something or the other. There was little they could do to resist.

However, Thackeray never did forget Kim Bahadur Thapa of whom he had grown very fond in a few short years. Soon, a Nepali youth began to be seen around Thackeray almost every occasion – he was already part of the Thackeray household but now he was also the Sena supremo’s personal Man Friday, fetching and carrying and always at hand. In no time he was a ubiquitous factor of the Thackeray household. This youth was Champa Singh Thapa, said to be a relative of Kim Bahadur whose loss was keenly felt by Thackeray.

Both the Thackerays and the Thapas (Kim Bahadur also had a sister taken care of financially by the Shiv Sena) were very discreet about Champa Singh’s true identity, leaving the real nature of their relationship largely to speculation. But in later years, as Thackeray’s health began to fail, Thapa took on the role of a 24x7 caretaker and attendant, fetching medicines, making sure Thackeray took his meals on time, helping him to walk to the bathroom and even sleeping in the same room as Thackeray who trusted few others as he did Thapa. 

Uddhav Thackeray recognised the service Champa Singh had rendered to his father and, at Thackeray’s funeral, he kept the man close to his father’s pyre, even encouraging Champasingh to participate in the rituals in public acknowledgment of the man’s importance to his father in his last years. 

Later, though Uddhav had no use for Champa Singh, he allowed him and other attendants, including Moreshwar Raje who assisted Champa Singh in Thackeray’s care, to hang around loosely at Matoshree.

In what is both a comedy and tragedy fast turning into a farce, this is the man that the Shinde faction has now poached from the Thackeray household with much tom-tomming of the entry – the so-called induction was held on the streets, raising eyebrows about why Shinde could not find an appropriate place for the same.

What is Thapa expected to bring to the Shinde camp? Perhaps nothing more than the imagery and a few family secrets. But those secrets may concern Bal Thackeray and his various relationships more than anything that might embarrass Uddhav who has always had a more stable relationship with his family than his father ever did. 

Thapa was a powerful conduit and filter when Bal Thackeray was alive but now he has little clout in the party. Nor has he any criminal history except for his connection to Kim Bahadur.

But he is definitely of some nuisance value to Shinde.

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