The Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) has planned to support the Bharat bandh called by the opposition for protesting against surging fuel prices. MNS which has been known for taking an aggressive stand against various issues like hawkers, toll plazas etc. is keen to take some political mileage out of the bandh. Through this act, MNS is also trying to gain an upper hand over Shiv Sena which has been criticising the Modi government for its failure to control rising fuel prices.
MNS leader Shalini Thackeray said, “It is not a question about Shiv Sena. Our priority is to raise questions about problems faced by the common people and the economic crisis happened during the BJP government’s tenure. People are suffering due to the various decisions taken by the government like hastily implemented GST and demonetisation campaign.”
“To recover losses on account of the wrong economic policies, the government is hiking tax rates and fuel prices. If the government is not hearing the voice of opposition parties we are bound to take an aggressive step as Raj Thackeray has been raising voice on such issues since a long time,” she added.
By coming forward to support the bandh, MNS is also trying to send a message to citizens that the party is concerned about the fuel price hike issue. The Raj Thackeray-led party is keen to revive itself ahead of the 2019 Lok Sabha polls by supporting people-centric issues. “We will actively participate in Monday’s bandh. We have appealed to the shopkeepers to keep shops and establishments closed. We won’t resort to violence, but we will ask people to support the bandh,” said MNS leader Sandeep Deshpande.
Congress MLC Bhai Jagtap said, “Only MNS will be able to give right answer about their stand. Congress raises voice against all wrong policies of the current government be it inflation, fuel price hike and many other issues. We are not indulging in the political stunt adopted by BJP before the 2014 Lok Sabha polls. If any political party like MNS is raising its voice for the interest of people then it augurs well. BSP and Left parties also extended their support to the bandh, so the political party has a choice to support or back out.”
MNS which was once known as a serious contender to challenge Shiv Sena, Congress, BJP and NCP in the state has been losing its foothold in the state. The exit of the various leaders like Pravin Darekar, Vasant Gite, Ram Kadam, Shishir Shinde and Shweta Parulekar has weakened the party further. Even party workers are upset with the functioning of Raj Thackeray as he remains inaccessible to them. The party remains too much dependent on him. Raj has also failed to develop strong second rung leadership which could further strengthen the party. Moreover, MNS is known as an urban-centric party focussed on cities like Mumbai, Thane and Nashik. Raj has failed to develop the party in rural areas of the state.
Shiv Sena MLA Prakash Surve said, “We are the alliance partner of the BJP government. People do not get influenced by the violent actions or vandalism. They want development, stability and security. Every party is trying to show their existence. So this is a fight for their existence.”
The MNS was founded in 2006 after breaking away from Shiv Sena. The party had registered impressive performance by winning 13 seats in the 2009 assembly polls. MNS emerged as the second largest party by winning six seats in Mumbai. It also ate into the BJP-Shiv Sena alliance by splitting votes during the 2009 Lok Sabha polls. However, MNS failed to capitalise on the success achieved by it in the 2009 assembly polls as it could only manage to win only a single seat in the 2014 assembly election.
BJP regional Vice President, Vasant Gite said, “It is a fight for their existence therefore, MNS is trying to come into the limelight. They can garner publicity through this act. They are trying to derive political mileage out of this act. I don’t think MNS’s actions will affect Shiv Sena’s prospects in the upcoming polls.”
Raj Thackeray has also been known for changing his stand on various issues affecting the nation. He initially had visited Gujarat and praised the developmental work done by the then chief minister of the state Narendra Modi. Later, he attacked Modi and stated that all the opposition parties must come together to ensure Modi-mukt Bharat.
By Mohit Soman & Suraj Chandran