Scotching rumours of any possibility of the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) joining a rainbow coalition of the opposition Shiv Sena, BJP and the RPI, Raj Thackeray on Saturday said that his party would come to power on its own. “We will bring the MNS to power in Maharashtra on our own strength,” Thackeray told party men at the eighth foundation day function at the Shanmukhananda hall. It was a bold declaration in full view of a big media presence.
The MNS has made enviable progress in the short period of six years that Raj parted ways with his uncle late Balasaheb Thackeray and set out on his own. Nevertheless, many will find it hard to accept that the MNS can make it to power solely on its own in the elections coming up next year.
While Thackeray’s pet campaign of jobs for sons of the soil has little resonance with the rural electorate, the party has little organisational muscle to convert the impressive turnout at its rallies into votes. The MNS has raised local issues but has not succeeded in taking these to their logical end. Perhaps its biggest weakness is that like the Shiv Sena, it hasn’t any presence in the co-operative sector, which is the key to rural Maharashtra.
Still, party men are upbeat. “We are focussing on building up the organisation across Maharashtra. Earlier, we were criticised for being city-centric. Now, we will have a pan-Maharashtra network,” said an MNS general secretary. Party leaders believe that this will help them and that the party going alone in the polls would increase their bargaining power in the event of a hung Assembly. They argue that joining Uddhav Thackeray’s Shiv Sena was not a guarantee for electoral success.
However, Uddhav’s lieutenants feel that Raj is looking to make gains in the parliamentary polls which he could leverage for more seat in the contest for the state legislature. Meanwhile, Raj has set out to attack the Nationalist Congress Party, which dominates the rural landscape, as part of the plan to build a base in those regions. “Raj must talk about core political, social issues which will give solace to people,” said Surendra Jondhale, head of the department of civics and politics, University of Mumbai. “He must put forth an alternate development plan.” He pointed out that while it was an emotional and organisational necessity for the Shiv Sena to talk about an alliance with the MNS, Raj was likely to keep his distance, at least till the polls were held.