While the opposition parties in Maharashtra is making effort to consolidate the anti-incumbency vote to dethrone the Sena-BJP alliance, Maharashtra Navnirman Sena chief Raj Thackeray, who has been crucifying the BJP-Sena government in the state and the NDA government at Centre and who seemed to have taken the agenda of the opposition is contemplated by many as the most misguided politician of the state at this crucial juncture in the election season. The political observers believe that the looming uncertainty over Thackeray’s stand on various issues and his poll strategy can be misleading for the voters.
One of the initial votaries of Narendra Modi’s candidature as Prime Minister, Raj is now among his staunchest critics. Thackeray calling for a “Modi-mukt Bharat” by 2019, questioning the authenticity of Pulwama attack, linking the Pathankot and Pulwama terror attacks to elections, and slamming the government for ignoring prior intelligence that could’ve prevented the February 14 attack on the CRPF jawans have kept his name in news. Attacking the ruling government, MNS chief further said that another “Pulwama-like strike” could occur in near future in a bid to win polls. While addressing his party workers on the 13th Foundation Day of the MNS last week, he also slammed the PM Modi’s statement that the presence of Rafale jets could have added to more firepower to the February 26 raids by Air Force on terrorist camps in Pakistan’s Balakot calling it an “insult to jawans”.
His party that is battling for political survival in Maharashtra is reported to be keen to join the NCP-Congress alliance. However, Thackeray recently clarifying to have no talks underway with any political party for upcoming polls and his noteworthy closeness with NCP supremo Pawar is raising many eyebrows setting off speculation about his political moves. Earlier in 2018, Thackeray had conducted a public interview of Sharad Pawar in Pune that too led to speculation of a ‘possible tacit political understanding’ between the two parties. Both Pawar’s and Raj Thackeray’s so-called ‘coincidental’ meeting in a flight and sitting next to each other was also a tip-off for the political observers who believe that there are no coincidences in politics, especially if it involves Sharad Pawar.
With 48 seats, Maharashtra sends the second highest number of lawmakers to Lok Sabha after Uttar Pradesh. The regional outfit MNS, whose foundation is rooted in the ‘sons-of-the-soil’ agenda, has said a party’s stand needs to change as per the prevailing political situation. As per reports, the MNS is expecting at least two seats for the Lok Sabha elections.
MNS Leader Nitin Sardesai said, “Raj always speaks his mind without bothering about anyone else. The ruling party leaders are making an issue out of Raj Thackeray-Sharad Pawar relationship which is unfair. MNS is an independent party that has its own ideology. Raj Thackeray will soon announce his stands on the upcoming Lok Sabha elections.”
While Ajit Pawar’s hour-long meeting with Thackeray made NCP’s interest to rope in MNS quite evident, the discord includes the resisting Congress that lacks interest in welcoming “chauvinist” MNS alongside. However, the estranged nephew of late Shiv Sena founder Bal Thackeray stated that his party will very soon make its decision public regarding fighting the Lok Sabha polls. “I am not (Bharip Bahujan Mahasangh chief Prakash) Ambedkar or (AIMIM chief Asaduddin) Owaisi to hold discussions on 2-3 seats. I will soon announce if we will be fighting the Lok Sabha elections,” he said.
Shiv Sena MLA Sadanand Sarvankar expressed, “It is regretful that a leader, who always fights for the Marathi people, is trying to sustain with the support from Sharad Pawar. He has a unique political calibre and he should also present himself and his party independently than shaking hands with another party whose ideology is different. Whatever statements he has recently given on nationalism and surgical strike have hurt the sentiments of the people of Maharashtra.”
The political taunt game never sees its end. Many leaders target MNS for having no consistency in its political stand since its inception and make fun of the party’s confusion between its national perspective and regional ‘son of the soil’ agenda. On the other hand, there are leaders who consider his ideology similar to that of BJP and Sena and believe his criticism for BJP and Sena is just the MNS-way to be in the political limelight.
BJP MLA Raj Purohit stated, “It is unfortunate that an independent leader like Raj Thackeray is now following the footsteps of Sharad Pawar. He has become so weak that he needs a script from Pawar to speak. Very evidently, MNS has not been active in Maharashtra politics in recent times and Pawar is reviving MNS from sinking.”
“It MNS calls itself a political party, it should contest elections. He only talks about Marathi issues and does nothing for the same; however, I, being a non-Marathi candidate, have been chosen to serve the state and its people for the last 40 years. Instead of opposing the BJP, Raj should focus on his political career as opposing BJP will help him in no way,” he added.
Taking a jibe at Raj Thackeray, Maharashtra CM Fadnavis recently made a reference that MNS chief “parrots” the script given by the NCP chief Pawar. Although Fadnavis very carefully ignored naming Pawar saying, “Baramati is always in search of a new parrot. There are certain things that they cannot say, but they are making the parrot speak it against the BJP for them.” He also added, “Being an artist, he (Raj) can read out a script well. Nowadays, his script is coming from Baramati.”
NCP MLA Rahul Narvekar spoke to Afternoon Voice and stated, “Every party has its own political agenda and their stand on any issue solely depends on their ideology. I don’t believe that Sharad Pawar is doing anything to support Raj Thackeray or making any effort to revive his political career.”
Narvekar further added, “MNS chief has been against Sena and BJP for years. The name of Pawar is dragged in every political activity that takes place in Maharashtra as he is a national face. Targeting Thackeray for reading Pawar’s script is baseless.”