After emerging as a surprise spoiler in 2009 when it contributed to the defeat of the Shiv Sena and BJP in nine seats, the Raj Thackeray-led Maharashtra Navnirman Sena came a cropper this time. The party lost in all 10 seats where it had fought.
Party leaders say that apart from a sense of drift, absence of a credible program for cadre, its inability to take issues like the anti-toll agitation to a logical end may have worked against them. That the MNS was seen as helping the Congress-NCP by splitting Sena-BJP votes, Raj's projection as an over-aggressive leader and lack of direct communication between him and the cadre have also proved to be stumbling blocks.
MNS activists said Raj's support for Modi swept away their core and auxiliary constituency. It seems Raj had gauged the situation. That's why he had declared that if elected, MNS would support Modi as the PM, in an attempt to garner support from Gujaratis and other trading communities and retain traditional BJP supporters.
"It's a tragedy that we have slipped to a few thousand votes from the lakhs we netted five years ago. Now, the main question before us is how to revive the morale of our cadre. That we lack a coherent policy on most issues has not helped matters," said a MNS district chief.
He said that honest workers who work on the ground were neglected in favour of commercial politicians. "Many activists may part way with the MNS due to this," he said.
Incidentally, former BJP chief Nitin Gadkari's appeal to Raj against contesting the polls to prevent division of the saffron votes and the outburst by Shiv Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray had put the MNS in a position of prominence.
An MNS leader said the party's decision to contest against Sena in eight places and the BJP in Bhiwandi and Pune had flopped.
"This is a victory for Modi's development plank. The Sena and BJP have managed to sail through by holding on to his coat tails," said an MNS leader, adding that however, the MNS had a glimmer of hope if the BJP managed to prevail on Sena to include it in the saffron alliance. The party may also focus on the Maharashtrian vs Gujarati cleavage in city to retain the Marathi voters.
"Modi won, all others lost," was Raj's reaction to the poll outcome.
Monkey finally off Sena's back
After losing its fortress, the Dadar-Mahim belt, to the MNS, first in 2009 assembly elections, and then during 2012 civic polls, the Shiv Sena has managed to stage a strong comeback this time. Sena candidate Rahul Shewale from the area, which come under Mumbai South-Central seat, registered a pleasing victory from Mumbai South-Central with 3,81,008 votes, while MNS man Aditya Shirdokar could get only 73,096 votes. As far as votes from the assembly segment is concerned, Shewale secured 74,639 votes, way above Shirodkar.