While Uddhav Thackeray and Raj Thackeray, leaders of the Shiv Sena and the MNS respectively, are busy with personal attacks on each other, Sena cadres and sympathisers are busy distributing lakhs of handbills in Marathi accusing the MNS of trying to split Marathi votes with a view to help the Congress.
In South Mumbai, for instance, in Marathi-dominated areas like Girgaum, Mazgaon, Sewri etc activists have dropped handbills in almost all households projecting the MNS as a party which has accepted "supari" (contract) from the Congress to divide Marathi votes.
Shiv Sainiks are taking the MNS by surprise and are going behind "enemy lines" and trying to win over Marathi voters.
Sena candidate from Mumbai South Arvind Sawant, who is a trade union leader of Mahanagar Telephone Nigam Ltd (MTNL),said his party lost the 2009 elections in this seat because of the split in Marathi votes.
MNS candidate Bala Nandgaonkar bagged over one lakh votes and ensured the defeat of the then Shiv Sena nominee Mohan Rawle. "But the situation prevailing now is vastly different from 2009. Marathi voters have realised how they were used by the MNS then to defeat the Shiv Sena, which is a party committed to their welfare. Also, no one likes a negative agenda. The MNS does not want to win, but is interested in only defeating the Sena. It has no objection if any other party wins. This cynicism is disliked by all voters. I am receiving tremendous support from Marathi and non-Marathi voters in a big way. I am certain the people will reject the politics of negativism practised by the MNS," Sawant added.
Senior Sena leader Diwakar Raote told dna on Sunday, "The MNS has no worthwhile presence in a majority of districts in Maharashtra. In Vidarbha, Marathwada and Konkan it is no force. Except for parts of Nashik, Thane and Mumbai it is not in the reckoning at all. But, even in Mumbai and other areas, the Marathi voters have become aware of its true nature. The MNS has not taken up any issue concerning the Marathi people. The only issue it took up was of toll, which does not concern the ordinary people. In Dadar, a senior MNS leader has huge interests in real estate development and he stands to rake in a cool Rs10,000 crore if these projects are completed and a majority of flats have been booked by non-Marathi people."
Senior MNS leader Shishir Shinde, however, rejected the Shiv Sena's allegations. "The Shiv Sena was defeated even in the 2004 Lok Sabha elections when the Congress bagged five of the six seats in Mumbai.
This was before the formation of the MNS in 2006. The Shiv Sena is losing election after election because of the failure of its leadership and not because of the MNS. We have a positive agenda which is to help the Marathi manoos. We have fielded a limited number of candidates in this polls, because our sights are set on the assembly elections to be held later this year. We want to develop Maharashtra so that the local people benefit from it."