When Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) was formed in 2006, party supremo Raj Thackeray had promised to give a new dimension to the state politics. Twelve years have already passed as MNS has failed to live up to the expectations of people. The MNS engine has lost track after many leaders have quit the party questioning the leadership of Raj. After reports of Senior MNS leader Shishir Shinde’s possibility of quitting the party to join Shiv Sena emerged, questions are being raised over the ability of Raj to lead the party. If Shinde bids adieu to MNS then it will be another addition to the growing list of leaders who have quit the party.
BJP regional vice-president Vasant Gite said, “I had quit MNS four years back. If MNS sidelines party workers who have worked hard and carried out agitations then what is the point in remaining with the outfit? Internal politics is prevalent in the party. MNS has failed to connect with masses and has not worked for their welfare.”
An MNS party worker spoke to AV on the condition of anonymity and said that kitchen politics of MNS is responsible for spoiling the party’s future.
He said, “Raj Thackeray’s wife Shalini Thackeray is more over-dominant than him. She assigns the target to party workers for gathering funds for the party. Those funds are not utilised in a proper manner and are often misused. A member who collects more money for the party is lauded by Raj Thackeray. Even if a worker works hard for the party’s development but if he fails to gather funds for the outfit then he is sidelined.”
Mumbai Congress Chief, Sanjay Nirupam said, “I don’t think Shishir Shinde is a big leader. He is inactive in politics. If an inactive leader quits an inactive party then it won’t make any difference. End of the day we have to connect with the people. MNS doesn’t have any presence in the state at grassroot level.”
Raj Thackeray is known for attracting people with his fiery speeches but those doesn’t translate into votes for the party. MNS also has been known for taking aggressive stand against various issues and spearheading violence. Party workers had launched an agitation against toll plazas operating in the state. The campaign fizzled out after incidents of violence were reported in several parts of the state.
Shiv Sena corporator Dilip Lande said, “Leaders might have left the party due to some injustice meted against them. Kitchen politics is not prevalent in MNS and no targets are offered to party workers for fundraising. I had quit the party as I was not given any free hand to discharge my duties. MNS has failed to raise issues pertaining to the welfare of citizens.”
By raking up the Marathi Manoos agenda MNS had won 13 seats in the 2009 Maharashtra assembly polls. It gave a severe jolt to the Shiv Sena by splitting Marathi votes. In Mumbai, MNS secured 24 per cent of the city’s votes and went on to become the second largest party with six seats. Raj, nonetheless, failed to capitalise on MNS’ victory and didn’t build the organisational structure which is necessary for the outfit’s growth. MNS could manage to win only one seat in the 2014 Maharashtra assembly election. His reluctance to set up a second rung leadership too has affected the party’s growth. MNS has remained as an urban-centric party and it is yet to gain a foothold in the rural areas of Maharashtra.
Meanwhile, Shalini Thackeray, MNS general secretary said that all the allegations about kitchen politics tarnishing the party as baseless. She stated, “Right now we are campaigning in the entire state. Some leaders who have quit the party are willing to rejoin and we are in the revival mode.”
“Rajsaheb already has spoken about restructuring the party and he himself interacts with the people. All the allegations about Raj remaining active only during the election are false. He is also having interactions with the party workers. We are in touch with Shishir Shinde and he is unable to work due to health issues.”
Leaders who have quit MNS to join Sena have witnessed Uddhav Thackeray’s aggressive approach towards BJP. The political legacy of Bal Thackeray is well maintained by Uddhav. Even though workers trusted Raj Thackeray but he disappointed them and remained inaccessible to them. MNS doesn’t have any ideology and even the youths have distanced themselves from the party. Raj’s changing stand against Prime Minister Narendra Modi too has sent a wrong message to the party workers. In 2011 Thackeray had visited Gujarat and praised development work carried out by Modi in the state and also backed him for the prime minister’s post. Later, he criticised Modi and attacked his government for its failure to fulfil the promises made to people. He also called for opposition parties to unite to ensure Modi-mukt Bharat.