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The sharp decline of the MNS and Raj Thackeray

By N Suresh
September 29, 2014 15:39 IST

Raj Thackeray'Raj will have to do a lot more to win over the public and overcome the trust deficit,' says N Suresh.

On Sunday, September 28, evening, Maharashtra Navnirman Sena chief Raj Thackeray launched his campaign for the Maharashtra assembly election.

Among the many things he said, he yet again declared, 'Once my party comes to power.' It is a brave thing to say, considering that there is a lot going against the MNS.

Firstly, the MNS cannot find 288 candidates to contest all the seats. Secondly, Raj and the MNS workers cannot shy away from the fact that all their candidates not only lost the last assembly election, but almost everyone lost their deposits.

Thirdly Raj's attack on Shiv Sena President Uddhav Thackeray just before the Lok Sabha election proved to be a disaster. The latest setback to the MNS is the India Today poll results on Sunday that has predicted maximum seats for the Shiv Sena -- 107 with the MNS projected to get only 11.

I don't think the MNS will recover from its Lok Sabha election debacle, wherein not only did all its candidates lose, they couldn't even save their deposits. It was a shameful loss of face. The lesson the voters taught the MNS was stinging.

I have met many Shiv Sainiks who admire Raj. These Sainiks probably voted for the MNS and would have moved to the party one day. The Lok Sabha election was their test. Apart from the violence that Raj unleashed, the breaking point was when Raj revealed personal details that transpired during Sena founder Bal Thackeray's illness. They felt Raj let down not only the Marathi people, but his own family.

One agitated Shiv Sainik told me, "If he has done something for his uncle out of love, you don't publicise it. That is your basic duty. He has stooped to such low levels. Why is he raking up personal issues? Why take your family feud to the streets?"

After the Lok Sabha election debacle, Raj and his coterie went into a shell, shocked beyond disbelief. People seemed to have made their choice. But one needs to remember that the Marathi manoos was testing both leaders. They gave Udhav time after his father Bal Thackeray's death.

Raj fell out with his uncle over the dynasty politics issue. He was the nephew and Thackeray chose his son as his political heir. The parting was bitter and acrimonious.

Five months the Lok Sabha election in Maharashtra, Bal Thackeray died and there was again a fallout between Raj and Udhav. Raj fell for the Bharatiya Janata Party's Nitin Gadkari's wooing. Gadkari knew that if the MNS cooperated with the BJP then it could eat into Sena votes and ensure that the Sena did not get enough seats. The BJP wanted to ditch the Sena and opt for the MNS.

Voters were unhappy with the MNS. The party forgot to do its political homework. It had no long-term plan. Initially, Raj touched on a raw nerve as he raised the toll tax. Like all his campaigns, after the initial noise and a lot of violence, Raj disappeared into his Mumbai home and did not see the campaign through.

Then came the secret pact with the BJP and Raj saw a bright political future. But in his greed for personal power he was dumped by the voters. What hurt more was that the BJP also dumped him. For the assembly election, the BJP made it clear it wanted the Shiv Sena. MNS cadres lost all morale and confidence.

And although the MNS kick-started its campaign with a 'Maharashtra blueprint,' which speaks about the future of the state, spelling out the kind of policies and reforms required, it is too late. The voter can see through the MNS agenda. Now with the loss of credibility and trust, a full eight years after holding Mumbai to ransom, comes a vision document late in the day.

Raj will have to do a lot more to win over the public and overcome the trust deficit. It is a lot of work and needs political patience, which can come with maturity and understanding. All of these seem to be lacking in the man.

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