Following the silence after interrogation by the Enforcement Directorate (ED) in a money laundering case, Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) chief Raj Thackeray seems to be returning to action. He held meetings of MNS leaders and workers. Finally, Raj Thackeray has agreed to contest Maharashtra assembly elections. Now he is busying himself in finalising party candidates for assembly elections. The Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) has indicated to fight around 100 seats. This is equal to total number of seats being contested by each the Congress and the NCP. Earlier, Raj Thackeray’s strong opposition to Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) had given rise to speculation that MNS may boycott the assembly polls. However, he never announced to not contest assembly elections.
When our correspondent Nikhil Sagare spoke to MNS leader Sandeep Deshpande he said, “We will contest more than 100 seats but I can’t say about the actual figure. There is no alliance between MNS and Congress-NCP.”
It is remarkable that his party did not contest the Lok Sabha polls but Raj Thackeray had run an aggressive campaign against PM Narendra Modi and his government. He openly supported the Congress and the NCP candidates in the state. After that, there was speculation that MNS might form alliance with Congress and NCP. But both these parties do not include MNS into their alliance and announced to contest 125 seats each in assembly elections.
MNS film wing president Amey Khopkar said, “Raj Thackeray will announce tomorrow from where MNS will be contesting election and how many seats and contestants will contest polls. No talks have been held pertaining to having alliance with Congress-NCP.”
The MNS is struggling to remain relevant in the Maharashtra politics. Raj Thackeray founded the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) in 2006, after he fell out with Shiv Sena supremo Bal Thackeray. The MNS won 13 seats in the 2009 assembly elections but it could manage only one seat in 2014. The party lost its ground in the state, despite the popularity of Raj Thackeray.
In August this year, Raj Thackeray, was interrogated by ED in a money laundering case. The Mumbai police had imposed section 144 of CrPC (banning unlawful assembly) outside the Enforcement Directorate (ED) office and some parts of the city as precautionary measure. It was apprehended that violence might spread over questioning him. After this interrogation, he was almost silent. Leaders like Ajit Pawar raised questions over his silence.
As per reports, MNS workers from Mumbai demanded that the party must contest the polls to remain relevant in the politics of Maharashtra. Raj Thackeray carefully listened to them and gave his green signal on contesting polls. He has asked to prepare the list of probable candidates for assembly elections. A senior MNS leader said that the party is focusing on urban areas like Mumbai, Thane, Nashik and Pune. Raj Thackeray is taking constituency-wise views from local leaders. Prior to this, the party leaders were of opinion that the MNS is not in a position to contest polls.
It is remarkable that Raj Thackeray had been at the forefront of anti-EVM protests. In July, MNS chief met Chief Election Commissioner Sunil Arora and demanded that the assembly polls in Maharashtra be conducted through paper ballots instead of EVMs. It was his visit to the national capital Delhi in more than a decade. Raj Thackeray said that he has submitted a letter to the Election Commission, demanding it to switch back to the traditional paper ballot. He also met Sonia Gandhi in Delhi and discussed political developments including the issue of EVMs. Later on, he met West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee on July 31 in Kolkata and invited her to take part in his party’s rally demanding use of ballot papers in the Maharashtra assembly elections.