Known for its abhorrence of Samajwadi Party Member of Legislative Assembly Abu Azmi, Raj Thackeray-led Maharashtra Navnirman Sena is likely to back the Congress candidate in the by-election to the Bhiwandi assembly seat in Maharashtra against the SP leader's son Farhan.
Azmi had won both Mankhurd and Bhiwandi seats in the 2009 legislative assembly elections and vacated the latter to pave the way for his son Farhan's entry into electoral politics.
The MNS, always game for crossing sword with Azmi, particularly on the issue of Hindi and north Indians, would leave no stone unturned to ensure the defeat of Azmi's hotelier son Farhan, married to actress Ayesha Takia, in the January 20 by-poll, a party source said.
According to the source, the party was contemplating extension of support to Congress nominee Muzaffar Hussain.
"It is true that we do not want SP candidate to win, but have not yet decided our strategy," MNS spokesperson Shirish Parkar told PTI.
Asked if MNS would field its own candidate for the polls, Parkar said the party organisation was not strong in the area and that no decision had been taken as yet on the issue.
Besides SP and the Congress, Shiv Sena's Rupesh Mhatre is also trying his luck. In the October 2009 assembly polls, Sena's Yogesh Patil had lost to Azmi.
According to MNS insiders, while supporting Congress would enable it to mend fences with the ruling party, something necessary if it has to secure revocation of the suspension of its four MLAs for assaulting Azmi for taking oath in Hindi, it may also help ensure defeat of Farhan and inflict a personal blow on the SP leader.
Another sound political reason for MNS supporting the Congress is that Shiv Sena candidate Mhatre, unlike many other Sena activists, does not maintain any relation with Raj Thackeray, the source said.
In Mumbai municipality mayoral election, MNS had indirectly aided in Shiv Sena candidate Shraddha Jadhav's victory by abstaining from voting, largely due to her good equations with Raj.
As Muslims constitute more than 50 per cent of the electorate, both SP and Congress have fielded candidates belonging to the community.
If Raj Thackeray is able to ensure transfer of a sizeable chunk of his young, pro-Marathi votes to Congress, he may upset his bete noire Azmi's applecart.