Nitin Sardesai, Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) MLA representing Dadar has offered his seat to his party chief Raj Thackeray. dna had reported on May 25 that Raj would be contesting the Assembly Elections scheduled to be held in October. This was confirmed by Raj himself at a public meeting held at Somaiya Ground in Sion on Saturday. Sardesai told dna on Sunday that he would deem it an "honour" to vacate the seat in favour of Raj.
Dadar is a politically significant constituency with the headquarters of both the Shiv Sena and MNS situated there. It was a bastion of the Shiv Sena till Sardesai won the seat in the last assembly election, much to the discomfort of the Shiv Sena.
However, in the recent Lok Sabha polls, the Shiv Sena secured a lead over the MNS in the Dadar assembly segment. When asked whether it wouldn't be risky for Raj to contest from Dadar, given the fact that the MNS did not secure a majority in the parliamentary polls from this assembly segment, Sardesai said, "The Shiv Sena secured a majority in other Assembly segments as well. In any case, the issues in the Assembly polls will be different from the ones on which the Lok Sabha election was fought. I am confident that my leader will win by a huge margin from Dadar."
If, ultimately, Raj does decide to file his papers from Dadar, then the contest will be highly interesting. The Shiv Sena may field a political heavyweight against him. The Shiv Sena nominee will not be former chief minister Manohar Joshi, who had represented Dadar earlier, because his son, Unmesh, is a business partner of Raj. In any case, Joshi had evoked the anger of Shiv Sainiks for targeting Uddhav in the run up to the LS election. Dadar is a predominantly Maharashtrian locality where the historic Shivaji Park is situated. The Shiv Sena was born in this sprawling maidan in 1966 by the late Bal Thackeray and the party is certain to make a prestige issue of winning in this constituency.
An MNS corporator, who declined to be named, also stated that Raj will be contesting from Dadar. However, he added that the Nashik unit of the party is keen on Raj contesting from there. "Raj saheb may contest from both Dadar and Nashik, just like Prime Minister Narendra Modi who fought the Lok Sabha elections from Vadodara and Varanasi," he added. The Shiv Sena is also keen on its president Uddhav Thackeray entering the fray. Given the excellent performance of the Shiv Sena in the LS polls, he has a wide choice of seats. "Uddhavji may contest from any seat, either in Mumbai, Thane or from any other district. Shiv Sainiks from across the state are keen that he contest from their area. However, the choice of seat will be left to him. He has proved his mettle and we are confident that he will win with a huge margin from wherever he contests," a senior Shiv Sena leader observed.
Meanwhile, the senior leadership of the BJP, including PM Narendra Modi, is keen that the party contest the assembly elections in tandem with the Shiv Sena. "There could be some differences during the seat-sharing talks. But, our brief is clear that nothing should be done which will weaken the alliance with the Shiv Sena. Uddhav enjoys a good personal equation with Modi and we are certain that the glitches with regard to sharing of seats will be sorted out well before the polls," a BJP office-bearer stated.