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It runs in the family

While union leader Sharad Rao stayed behind the scenes during the recent strikes waged by auto drivers' unions, it was his son Shashank who was at the helm of affairs

Like father, like son: Union leader Sharad Rao is slowly making way for his son, Shashank (right), ensuring that he steps into his shoes and becomes the head of the auto union's empire. File pics

Sharad Rao is a well-known name and a vociferous presence in union rooms across the state. Gradually but surely, however, he is making the way for his son Shashank. The union leader has made it clear that he intends the young scion to step into his shoes, and the young leader, who has been a visible presence at recent strikes, morchas and dharnas, appears all set to ascend the throne to Rao Senior's union empire. While it was Sharad who called for the auto rickshaw stir on Monday, it was his son, also the working secretary of the union, who was at the helm of affairs.

When members of the auto drivers' union across the city marched to the Bandra (East) transport office, it was Shashank who appeared to be the mobilising force, while his father made an early exit after a brief exchange with the commissioner.

After a 45-minute meeting with the Transport Commissioner V More, thousands of drivers gathered at a nearby ground -- and here too, it was Shashank who joined other senior leaders of the Mumbai Auto Rickshawmen's union to address the gathering. Rao Senior was nowhere in sight.  Along with other leaders on the dais, Shashank made declamatory remarks, promising that the strike would be a wake up call for the traffic police and RTO officials, whose alleged high handedness has caused endless suffering to auto drivers.

They also assured the gathered auto drivers that Rao's union would crusade to seek relief for them.

Asked about his father's conspicuous absence from the day's proceedings, Rao Junior leaped to his father's defense, saying, "He met the commissioner and left, as he had other work scheduled for the afternoon. He spoke at a press conference and addressed the auto drivers in the evening. I don't have any political aspirations. We are working with the sole purpose of helping the union."

Shashank may be the newly appointed demi-god among the campaigning auto drivers, with hoardings outside the Goregaon auto union office celebrating the father-son duo. Little needs be said, however, about the ill repute they have earned themselves among the irked commuters in the city, who have repeatedly had to bear the brunt of the unruly auto drivers' collective wrath.

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