Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) chief Raj Thackeray’s cosying up with NCP supremo Sharad Pawar has raised eyebrows in political circles and indicates that there are no permanent friends or enemies in politics. Thackeray who had once praised Prime Minister Narendra Modi, has changed his stand and started criticising the Modi government’s policies. The BJP’s recent loss in Gorakhpur and Phulpur by-polls has boosted the confidence of several opposition parties like TDP, AIMIM, TRS, CPI and TMC, as there have been demands to form a united alliance to challenge BJP in the upcoming 2019 Lok Sabha polls. Raj Thackeray too has joined the bandwagon and has called for like-minded parties to come together against BJP.
Congress MLA Arif Naseem Khan said that the Modi government has failed to provide good governance. He said, “In a democracy, every party has the right to protest but there is a constitutional way of going about it. MNS should not vandalise Gujarati signboards of shops in the city. We don’t support any kind of violent politics and are against the right wing ideology.”
He further stated that today every party is opposing the Modi government. “If several parties join hands against BJP, it can be defeated. Politics should be based on ideology.”
Raj Thackeray has called for a Modi-mukt Bharat for ousting the BJP-led government from the centre. This is the same leader who had earlier visited Gujarat and lauded Modi’s development works undertaken in the state. By shifting his party’s stand according to changing political equations, Thackeray too is turning out to be an opportunistic politician. The MNS leader has now joined the list of leaders like Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar, Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister Chandrababu Naidu and RJD Chief Lalu Prasad Yadav who switch their loyalties whenever there is a change of governance in the country. What message is Raj sending out to the voters ahead of 2019 Lok Sabha polls by taking an anti-Modi stand?
Shiv Sena spokesperson Dr Manisha Kayande stated, “There is nothing new in the speech delivered by Raj Thackeray on the occasion of Gudi Padwa. Even Ashish Shelar gave a befitting reply to Raj after he made the Modi-mukt Bharat statement. The relation between BJP and MNS has strained. Earlier Raj Thackeray used to praise Modi but he has become his critic now.”
The MNS has been losing its foothold in Maharashtra after its impressive performance in the 2009 Lok Sabha polls. The party had not managed to win a single seat despite contesting in 10 Lok Sabha seats in 2014 Lok Sabha polls and only won a single seat in the assembly polls held in the same year.
BJP MP Gopal Shetty expressed that people have faith in Modi government and their performance. He further said, “We work for the welfare of people so they won’t approve of anti-Modi politics. It won’t be Modi-mukt Bharat in 2019 but it will be Modi Yukta Bharat.”
MNS never had an agenda as the party is surviving on Raj Thackeray’s charisma. The outfit lacks organisational structure and there is no second rung leadership after Thackeray who can take the party forward. Raj Thackeray’s speeches have always attracted massive crowds but the same doesn’t translate into votes for the party. Raj is only going with the flow and trying to take advantage of the changing political scenario in the country after BJP’s poor show in the by-polls. He is keen to gain some mileage by interviewing senior leaders like Sharad Pawar.
MNS leader Shalini Thackeray said that when Raj Thackeray had visited Gujarat, he witnessed development there. She said, “Even people were pleased with Modi and hence voted for him. However, the Modi government has failed to deliver the promises made by it, therefore, Raj saheb is disappointed with them. Hence, he has called for a Modi-mukt Bharat. Even farmers, women, students are unhappy with the Modi government.”
In an attempt to woo Marathi voters, MNS has been raking up the ‘Marathi manoos’ agenda. The strategy had initially reaped political dividends for MNS during the 2009 assembly polls but later voters gave a thumps down to the outfit. Many leaders have already quit MNS and have joined rival parties. MNS corporators too have failed to perform as the party has lost the faith of voters. The outfit lacks direction and doesn’t appeal to youth any longer. According to political analysts, MNS needs a facelift and must develop its organisational structure to connect with voters.
MNS also has been known for disrupting law and order by attacking north Indian taxi drivers. The party workers resorted to violence by damaging the windshield of a taxi in the city during the strike called by Ola and Uber taxi drivers on Monday. They also pulled down Gujarati signboards from commercial establishments located at Vasai.