Bhartiya Janta Party’s move to woo Maharashtra Navnirman Sena for the national electoral gains has not only irked the partner Shiv Sena but has also angered the north Indian community as the MNS has been known for its anti-north Indian stand since its birth in 2006.
BJP leader Nitin Gadkari’s meeting with Raj Thackeray has not gone down well among Hindi-speaking people in Maharashtra who mainly hail from Bihar and Uttar Pradesh.
The community has been a significant vote-base for the BJP since decades. According to an estimate, Mumbai city is home to over 35 lakh north-Indians. The figure could be over 80 lakh across Maharashtra.
UK Singh, the General Secretary of the Bihar Association of Mumbai, says, “Gadkari’s move has shocked the community. The MNS’ hatred against the community is well-known. The party may claim to be the champion of Marathi Manoos but it is perceived to be Anti-north Indian party.”
Over the years, the Shiv Sena has graduated from the Marathi Manoos ideology to the Hindutva ideology but the MNS maintained its anti- north Indians stand, says Singh.
Calling the BJP’s move as opportunism, Singh says, “Raj Thackeray’s anti-north Indian stand is no hidden secret. The party had instigated several violent attacks in the recent past on the community forcing many to flee from Maharashtra. Did BJP forget all those things for the electoral gains?"
A Nashik- based businessman (who didn’t wish to be named), says, “Many factories were closed down following large scale violence in 2008 when over 10,000 north Indians fled from Nashik to their hometown. They will never forgive the MNS. Any prospective alliance between the BJP and MNS may affect the party’s poll prospects not only in Mumbai and Maharashtra but in UP and Bihar as well.”
Prem Shukla, a senior journalist says,"The Gadkari's attempt has surprised many. The MNS anyway has not support machinery to contest the Lok Sabha elections. It relied on secret congress backing in 2009. The congress is in no mood to back the MNS this time. Hence BJP attempted to forge an alliance with Raj. However, it's unlikely that Raj would accept BJP's offer."
He also said that any such alliance will affect the vote share of the BJP not only in Maharashtra but in UP and Bihar as well.
Even state BJP functionaries are said to be unhappy with the sudden unfolding of the events. “The cadre from across Maharashtra is seeking clarification from senior leaders who are also clueless”, said a BJP leader who said that the state-leaders were not taken into confidence before this move.
Interestingly, MNS is yet to open its cards. Raj Thackeray has still not accepted Gadkari’s offer.
On the other hand, BJP also seems to be dragging its feet from the whole issue. Shaina NC, treasurer of state BJP, says, “There is no official stand on MNS tie-up as of now. Don’t read too much into Gadkari-Raj meeting.”