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The future looks bleak for Raj Thackeray's MNS

May 20, 2014 11:10 IST

The future looks bleak for Raj Thackeray's MNS

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Sanjay Jog in Mumbai

Raj Thackeray's decision to support Modi as prime minister did not appeal voters. Sanjay Jog reports from Mumbai.

Maharashtra Navnirman Sena is not a party like the ones in Uttar Pradesh and Bihar which the Bharatiya Janata Party chief should remember, the party chief Raj Thackeray had said in his response to Rajnath Singh's suggestion that MNS either becomes a part of the National Democratic Alliance or merge with BJP.

Singh had snubbed Raj for his post Lok Sabha polls support to Narendra Modi as the prime minister terming it ''unsolicited'' one.

However, the crushing defeat of party's 10 candidates, who lost their deposit, has now forced Raj to seriously consider Singh's advice and reposition himself to stay afloat in the Maharashtra politics.

MNS vote share had fallen to 1.47% compared to 4% in 2009 polls. The Raj-led party had polled 1.5 million votes after contesting 12 seats in the last general elections.

However, during the recently concluded general elections, MNS nominees got mere 700,000 votes as voters have cast their votes to Shiv Sena-BJP alliance even in those assembly constituencies represented by MNS legislators.

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Image: Raj Thackeray-led MNS's vote share had fallen to 1.47% compared to 4% in 2009 polls
Photographs: Sahil Salvi

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Raj Thackeray's Modi card didn't appeal to voters

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Despite fiery speeches, scathing attack against the Congress-Nationalist Congress Party and also against Shiv Sena in particular, MNS candidates in 10 seats miserably failed to get even 100,000 votes each.

Voters simply dumped MNS as Raj Thackeray's Modi card did not appeal them as he failed to provide an alternate development model or make public his much debated blue print for Maharashtra.

Raj Thackeray's violent agitations against toll collection and hate politics against north Indians did not appeal the voters.

Instead, they wholeheartedly supported the Shiv Sena and Bharatiya Janata Party who along with the Swabhimani Shethkari Sanghatana won a record 42 of the 48 Lok Sabha seats in the state.

More importantly, Raj Thackeray's call to teach Shiv Sena a lesson did not go down well especially in the traditional vote bank -- the Marathi manoos -- who was convinced that the MNS was not only a spoiler but an extended arm of the ruling Congress party.

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'Voters were convinced that vote for MNS means vote for Congress'

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Further, voters expressed their anger against Raj for levelling allegations against his estranged brother and Shiv Sena president Uddhav Thackeray that the late Thackeray Sr had been given small, oily batata wadas during his last days, which had led to him (Raj) sending chicken soup from his house till he slipped into a coma. Raj had responded to Uddhav's jibe that former had back-stabbed Shiv Sena supremo Bal Thackeray.

Political analyst Pratap Asbe, who has been tracking the state politics for over three decades, told Business Standard, ''MNS was lack of any clear agenda. His flip flop over Modi and Gujarati community confused his rank and file. Voters felt that Raj led party is the party to divide votes especially of Shiv Sena and it cost MNS heavily”.

“Voters were also convinced that vote for MNS means vote for Congress.''

Furthermore, Raj failed to make development as a major poll plank. MNS controlled Nashik civic body failed to demonstrate its political will to implement growth agenda there.

Notwithstanding infighting and unrest within Shiv Sena, the latter benefitted big way boarding the Modi express, Asbe notes.

MNS leader, who did not want to identify, admitted that the centralisation of power and lack of proper team at the grassroots led to party's worst performance.

''After party's formation in 2006, MNS had won 13 assembly seats in the state. Voters felt that they had got an option in the MNS and a charismatic leader like Raj who can materialise their dreams and protect their interests. However, party without any concrete programme failed to mobilise support despite record breaking rallies addressed by Raj,'' he opines.

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Image: Raj Thackeray addressing a campaign rally in Pune
Photographs: Sahil Salvi

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'MNS-Sena merger will be true tribute to Bal Thackeray'

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Immediately after the poll results were declared, Raj reacted ''Modi won, all others lost." Although he has yet to spell out what went wrong for party's dismal show, there are very few options before him for the survival of MNS.

Interestingly, the state BJP chief Devendrra Fadnavis, who is one of the architects of party's stellar performance, did not waste any time to announce that there was no proposal to include MNS in the BJP-Shiv Sena led three parties Maha Yuti nor any move to strike seat sharing deal in the run up to the elections to the 288-member Maharashtra legislative assembly slated for September-October.

He went on to add Maha Yuti will contest the coming assembly elections to dislodge the 15-year old Congress-NCP government.

However, the chorus within MNS fold is slowly and steadily increasing for Raj to arrive at an understanding with Shiv Sena in particular.

MNS has its presence in Mumbai, Thane, Pune, Nashik belt though his party nominees were elected in civic and local bodies and assembly from rest of Maharashtra. MNS understanding with Shiv Sena and BJP alliance will further damage the prospects of Congress-NCP which had bagged only six seats in general elections.

Some also hint at MNS merger with Shiv Sena which will be true tribute to Bal Thackeray. This is despite the fact that Raj Thackeray has time and again ruled it out.

Moreover, an alliance between NCP and MNS, both the regional parties, may take a shape ahead of ensuing assembly polls. NCP had admitted that it had received alliance proposal from MNS before the announcement of Lok Sabha elections. However, both the parties did not pursue it. But they may revive the proposal now to provide an alternate in the state politics.

MNS insiders indicate that Raj may have to work 24x7 to change image of the party which is committed for development not only of Marathi manoos but all and give a good bye to the politics of hate and violence.

Time is too short for Raj to decide his party's future.


Image: Raj Thackeray with Shiv Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray
Photographs: Sahil Salvi

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