Suppose there are two shops, which can repair your cell phone. One is authentic, another is unofficial and has no guarantee. Both charge the same amount. Which shop will you pick? It is no brainer.
Electorate in Maharashtra though along those same lines and went ahead with common sense. With the ambition of seeing Narendra Modi at the centre, the electorate voted for BJP’s official ally, Shiv Sena, instead of Raj Thackeray’s MNS.
In 2006, when Raj Thackeray split from Shiv Sena and formed his own party, the personal rivalry between him and Uddhav Thackeray was incarnated into a political one. MNS drew support and attraction during its honeymoon period. It did well in the Maharashtra assembly elections in 2009 and gave serious headache to Shiv Sena in the recent corporation elections. Even in the 2009 Loksabha elections, it might not have won a seat but played a major role in defeating Sena-BJP nominees, who lost by a margin of 3,000 to 50,000 votes with the MNS getting over one lakh in most seats. This had led to the defeat of 10 Sena-BJP nominees.
Raj Thackeray seemed keen on repeating the history by declaring his support for Modi and, at the same time, putting up candidates against Shivsena. However, he forgot that the voter is too wise to be ensnared so easily. Electorate has made Indira Gandhi fall flat on her face. The voter has thrown out Winston Churchill after the Second World War. The strategy was exposed and MNS ended up being the only major political party in Maharashtra to garner lesser votes than what it did in 2009.
In 2009, MNS had contested 11 seats and got 15.03 lakh votes. This time, even though the total number of votes polled in the state grew by 31%, the party saw its total votes go down to 7.01 lakh. Moreover, Nashik, where the MNS rules the civic body, has come as the unkindest cut for Raj Thackeray. In a few constituencies, his candidates even lost their deposits.
He had no major point while campaigning in this election, which was manifested when he harped upon the menu of Bal Thackeray during his last days. His speeches were akin to a stand-up comic, where he mimicked his opponents. It showed how keen and focused he was on the irrelevant. The toll agitation was as frivolous as it could get. And when Raj Thackeray offered support to Modi, Rajnath Singh rightly dismissed and ridiculed him.
Shiv Sena, as a result, won 18 seats along with BJP’s 23 and Raju Shetty, and the alliance conglomerated 42 seats in Maharashtra—an unprecedented success.
Apart from the anti-incumbency, the credit of this success must go to the man from Vadnagar. Modi did not campaign for a particular leader but he took 15 rallies in different parts of the state. Consequentially, the alliance swept the state with NCP-Congress getting scantly six seats, four of them in western Maharashtra. However, Udhhav Thackeray must be vigilant and the warning bells could be ringing in his ears. In Maharashtra, Sena has always been the dominant force. However, this time around, BJP’s performance has exceeded that of Sena and the votes have, by and large, won by Modi rather than the candidates.
The Sena-BJP alliance was an alliance between Pramod Mahajan and Bal Thackeray. After Mahajan’s death, there have been internal conflicts. But Modi seems to have acted like oil on turbulent water. The overwhelming support humiliated MNS and propelled Sena-BJP alliance. The result is likely to resonate in the upcoming assembly elections as well.
After Bal Thackeray’s death, there were strong forecasts of MNS overtaking Shivsena. However, Udhhav Thackeray has clearly won this round and Raj Thackeray will have to figure out a new strategy, which goes beyond his charisma, flamboyance, and mimicry.
There were talks of pitching Raj Thackeray as the chief minister of Maharashtra in the upcoming elections. In a sense, he plans to take a leaf out of Modi’s book. However, Modi was a three-time chief minister, which is not a bad thing to have on your CV. What is going to be Raj’s central point on which he plans to build his edifice is anybody’s guess. The invisible blue print?
The scenario in Mumbai on May 16 summed up this fight. While Shiv Sainiks poured into the city with a gleam of triumph in their eyes, Raj Thackeray remained huddled at his home.