The meeting between MNS chief Raj Thackeray and former Congress president Sonia Gandhi has raised speculations in the political circles whether Raj is going to have an alliance with the Congress for contesting the forthcoming Maharashtra Assembly polls. The MNS had not contested the Lok Sabha polls but Raj Thackeray was involved in active campaigning for the Congress and the NCP. While campaigning for Congress-NCP, Raj had taken a jibe at the Modi government for its failure to provide good governance.
Mahila Pradesh Congress General Secretary advocate Manisha Rote said, “If MNS forms an alliance with the Congress-NCP, it will be strengthened. Rahul Gandhi will take the policy decision. When it comes to voting, people don’t take MNS seriously. Raj Thackeray’s rallies attract huge crowds but the same doesn’t translate into votes.”
The MNS which had won 13 seats in the 2009 assembly polls failed to make an impact in 2014 assembly polls where the party could manage to win only one seat. The voters which initially had huge expectations from the party remained disconnected with the outfit during the 2014 assembly polls. Thus, the MNS engine had derailed before it could make an impact in the state.
Political journalist Nilesh Khare said, “Raj Thackeray is trying to bring the anti-Modi front forward. Through this motive, the MNS can strengthen itself financially and at local level. It can only make a comeback in the state by defeating Shiv Sena and BJP. If the MNS wants to strengthen itself , it should target the ruling alliance.”
Now the MNS is making another attempt to revive itself ahead of the 2019 Assembly polls in the state. Thackeray had called on Sonia Gandhi in Delhi earlier this week amid churning in Maharashtra politics and possible political realignments in the poll bound Maharashtra. On the other hand, the BJP and Shiv Sena are confident of winning at least 220 seats out of 288 seats in Maharashtra after their impressive performance in the 2019 Lok Sabha polls.
Political expert Abdul Wahab said, “There are lesser chances of the MNS strengthening itself. The MNS has lost its sheen in the state. Earlier, the party had come to power in Nashik Municipal Corporation. The party has weakened after its poor show in assembly polls. Raj Thackeray had held interactive sessions with the voters but it didn’t revive the party.”
Even though the MNS did not contest the Lok Sabha polls, Raj Thackeray had campaigned for the Congress-NCP in Maharashtra and he had managed to draw huge crowds at rallies held by him in the state. Thackeray attributed the BJP’s victory to the Vanchit Bahujan Aghadi led by Prakash Ambedkar and rebels in the Congress and NCP besides the EVMs. According to him, Ambedkar and his Aghadi including Asaduddin Owaisi‘s AIMIM put up candidates to divide the opposition votes.
Thackeray began his friendship with Prime Minister Narendra Modi at a time when most political leaders considered Modi persona non grata, given the 2002 riots in Gujarat while he was the Chief Minister. Thackeray changed his mind about Modi when he realised he had been taken for a ride on the ‘Gujarat Model‘ of development. Now, Thackeray seems to be convinced that Modi and Bharatiya Janata Party President and Union Home Minister Amit Shah are bad news for not just Maharashtra but for the entire country, and is trying to stop their juggernaut.
Thackeray ran the best election campaign across India against Modi and the BJP during the recent Lok Sabha elections. He was the only other political leader, apart from former Congress President Rahul Gandhi, who full-bloodedly took on Modi, no holds barred and pulling no punches. This is the second and last chance for Raj to rejuvenate his party. Already many leaders have left MNS which has weakened the party. Moreover, Raj has been unable to expand the footprint of his party across Maharashtra. His party has just remained restricted to the urban areas like Mumbai, Nashik, and Pune. Thus, Raj Thackeray is once again trying to revive his party by attempting to forge an alliance with Congress. After the failed attempt in the Lok Sabha elections, it seems it is his last chance to do so.
By Suraj Chandran & Moumita Mukherjee