The Raj Thackeray-led Maharashtra Navnirman Sena is likely to announce Sunday its decision whether it will contest or keep out of the ensuing 2014 Lok Sabha elections, a senior party office-bearer said. Thackeray is currently engaged in marathon meetings with party leaders and workers from across the state to finalise its stance in the elections, said the leader, who requested anonymity. "He will guide the party on its role in the Lok Sabha elections on the MNS's eight anniversary day celebrations here Sunday," the leader said.
The MNS stand would be crucial after a controversy erupted over Thackeray's recent meeting with Bharatiya Janata Party's former president Nitin Gadkari in Mumbai.
In that meeting, Gadkari reportedly made an offer to Thackeray to join the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance, keep off the Lok Sabha polls to prevent split in the opposition votes and also support the BJP candidates. This immediately led to howls of protests from the Shiv Sena which virtually threatened to pull out of the five-party "Grand Alliance" (Mahayuti) in the state.
Senior BJP leaders like state president Devendra Fadnavis and deputy leader in Lok Sabha Gopinath Munde rushed to mollify the agitated Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray, effectively shutting the doors on MNS entry into the 'Mahayuti' or NDA.
Munde went a step further and assured that the BJP would not arrive at any direct or indirect pre-poll understanding with either the MNS or Sharad Pawar-led Nationalist Congress Party, which finally mollified Uddhav Thackeray - a staunch opponent of his estranged cousin Raj Thackeray.
Unperturbed by the political mini-storm that rattled the Shiv Sena, the MNS is currently contacting various smaller parties and important local groups to create another electoral front in the state. "The MNS is ready with three lists for the 48 Lok Sabha seats, one having 45 MNS candidates, another 22 and a third with 14 nominees. This is sufficient to accommodate any types of demands or tie-ups with smaller parties or groups," the MNS leader said.
The MNS is seriously toying with the idea of contesting the Lok Sabha elections hoping it can win at least one-two seats besides making a dent in around 10 seats in the state. "We shall know our popularity levels, where we stand vis-a-vis other parties and help re-charge the party cadres ahead of the crucial Maharashtra assembly elections, due end of the year," the leader contended.
If the MNS decided to join the electoral, it will lead to a nearly houseful situation in many of the 48 Lok Sabha constituencies.
Besides MNS, there is the Congress, NCP, BJP, Shiv Sena, Aam Aadmi Party, Mayawati's Bahujan Samaj Party and other local parties in the fray this time.