Why is Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) chief Raj Thackeray publicly crossing swords with the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP)?
Besides cashing in on the anti-incumbency factor, when the principal opposition is seen as being weak, observers say it may be due to the possibility of the NCP emerging as a natural port of call for disgruntled Shiv Sainiks in the post-Bal Thackeray era, which may upset Raj’s calculations of emerging as his uncle’s political heir.
Moreover, to spread in rural areas, where MNS’ standard anti-outsider plank has little resonance, MNS will have to take on NCP, which has a strong base there.
On Tuesday, Raj’s convoy was stoned by NCP workers in Ahmednagar, sparking sporadic clashes between MNS and NCP activists across the state. Raj, who is on a state-wide tour, has been taking on deputy chief minister Ajit Pawar.
“Raj may have realised that like for the Shiv Sena, NCP is also the main threat for MNS. While poaching on Sena’s flock, NCP is also breaking MNS,” said a Sena source, pointing to NCP’s weaning away MNS legislator Harshavardhan Jadhav.
He added that unlike expectations, Sena leaders had preferred joining the NCP instead of MNS, as it had the advantage of being in power and the same
aggressive leadership like the Sena of yore. The NCP, Sena and MNS share the same electoral catchment.
“Raj may also be trying to cash in on the disgruntlement in the NCP on Ajit Pawar’s style of functioning and hence may be targeting him specifically,” he said, adding that attacks on Pawar could gladden Congress.
Surendra Jondhale, professor and head of department of civics and politics, University of Mumbai, pointed out that Pawar and Raj were “future political contenders”, considering their age. Moreover, a militant posturing by MNS could weaken Sena organisationally.
“The ground below the NCP’s feet is eroding,” said an MNS leader, adding that Raj’s aggressive posturing in the NCP’s strongholds in Western Maharashtra may have upset the party.