Congress has rejected NCP’s proposal to form an alliance with the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) to defeat BJP. Mumbai Regional Congress Party (MRCC) President Sanjay Nirupam is averse to having an alliance with MNS. He added that the Congress state and central leadership is opposed to having a tie-up with the Raj Thackeray-led outfit. With an eye on the next year’s Lok Sabha and assembly polls, the political parties are trying out various permutations and combinations to stitch together an alliance to challenge their rivals.
Congress leader Harshwardhan Patil said, “I am unaware about the talks held between Congress and NCP pertaining to having an alliance with MNS. Currently talks are held on different front to discuss about alliances with various parties. We have not decided about including any party to be a part of the alliance. Prakash Ambedkar had called for having an alliance with AIMIM which is not acceptable to us. All parties should come together to stop BJP and Shiv Sena but high command will take a decision about which party will have an alliance with us. Parties sharing similar ideology must come together.”
A few days back, a meeting was held between Congress and NCP leaders to discuss this issue of accommodating MNS into the Congress-led grand alliance. However, Congress opposed this move fearing that it may create a dent in the north Indian vote bank.
MNS leader Sandeep Deshpande said, “Our party takes a call whether to join Mahagathbandhan or not. The final decision will be taken by Rajsaheb Thackeray. So firstly it is important to talk on such subject after a decision is taken by the party. Talks about including MNS in Mahagathbandhan are held between Congress and NCP. As far as the MNS is concerned a proposal in this regard is yet to be communicated to us. Therefore as of now it is not appropriate to comment any further regarding this subject.”
Congress was worried that if the party has a tie-up with MNS, then the north Indians might not vote for them. Since MNS has been known for adopting an aggressive stand against the north Indians, many leaders from Congress felt that the decision to have an alliance with the Raj Thackeray-led party may backfire. If Congress is expecting that a major chunk of north Indian voters will vote for it, then it may not be the true. North Indian voters had voted for BJP and Shiv Sena in the 2014 Lok Sabha and assembly polls which might be one of the reasons why Congress and NCP fared badly in these elections.
Shiv Sena MLA Prakash Surve said, “I don’t think there can be a tremendous shift of north Indians votes if MNS forms alliance with Congress NCP. Congress will be able to maintain their traditional north Indian votebank. There are two cadres of north Indian voters. One cadre is supporting BJP while the other is supporting Congress while the remaining ones support us on the basis of our work. MNS does not get north Indian votes. If NCP and MNS come together it will make a huge difference but if Congress, NCP and MNS come together it will only make a slight difference.”
Both Congress and MNS share different ideologies and hence, it might be difficult for both these parties to jointly contest the election. The MNS activists have been known for targeting north Indians and violating law and order. Nirupam had stated that earlier Raj Thackeray had praised the developmental work undertaken by Modi in Gujarat. He added that this time too Raj should support Modi. Congress is keen to have an alliance with like-minded parties like Samajwadi Party, PWP, and Communist Party of India. The party is wary of MNS which has made attempts to divide people on language, region and culture.
BJP spokesperson Shirish Boralkar said, “It is nothing but a selfish coalition of all parties to stop Modiji and indulge in politics. However they are facing hurdles to form Mahagathbandhan. MNS and Congress and NCP do not share the same ideology and it will be an opportunistic alliance. People won’t approve of such alliance. If we observe the track record of MNS then we will get an idea of how its alliance with Congress and NCP can affect the Mahagathbandhan. They don’t share any ideology and lack blueprint for development as their main objective is to oust Modiji.”
On the other hand, some leaders from NCP believe that MNS might play a crucial role to challenge the Modi led BJP in Lok Sabha and state assembly polls next year. Since Congress has opposed to NCP’s proposal to have an alliance with MNS, NCP is planning to give some seats to the party from its own quota. Since last few days, there have been reports about MNS cosying up with NCP giving rise to speculations about both parties coming together to contest elections. Even though Congress is averse to induct MNS in the grand alliance the party is confident that Sharad Pawar would devise a manner to take it on board.
By Mohit Soman & Suraj Chandran