ne by one many ‘MNS’ leaders are returning to the pavilion, I am not at all surprised about the MNS catastrophe. The party now has very few leaders, almost non-existent, who are well connected with voters. When Raj Thackeray left Shiv Sena many walked out with him and joined his political party assuming that he could be like the next Balasaheb Thackeray. Raj’s oratory and imitating style is just like Sahib. When Raj speaks, people go mad whistling, giggling and clapping but the same crowd has disowned him when it comes to politics. And leaders those who supported him once are returning to Shiv Sena. Irrelevant issues raised by Raj Thackeray and his party leaders were not acceptable to the people of Maharashtra. Since its inception, MNS tried to create division between people based on their origin. “Don’t speak in Hindi or English” with “outsiders”. This worked among lower working class as this section always believes that their misfortune is because of somebody else. It’s always easy to convince this class in whatever way you can.
After 2010, Modi was applauded for his developmental agenda in Gujarat and BJP too adopted this model countrywide and it quickly became popular. Good road, water, education, doing business, and career development became the key words than ‘mother tongue, culture, region and religion’. This developmental agenda is much inclusive and does not discriminate anybody. Needless to say, this became popular among young voters (21–45) that constitute huge population in the state. Soon MNS found it difficult to convince the people. They too adopted this developmental agenda and implemented it to some extent in Nashik, but it didn’t work for some reasons. Another biggest mistake committed by Raj Thackeray is that he raked up many issues and left them halfway. He never reached to the conclusion. The 2014 Maharashtra assembly poll result too proved the same as MNS is almost wiped out across the state. Maharashtra and its people are not as extreme in terms of language, culture etc. compared to some other states. That does not mean they don’t have pride in that, but fooling them in the name of these issues won’t work for long. So any party or leader trying to provoke these sentiments is going to get limited success, unless they really slog for the people.
Raj Thackeray’s party politics was always driven in the kitchen, his wife is more dominant than him as a party supremo; the major reason for many members to leave MNS was because of her dictatorship. Moreover, people were tired of Raj Thackeray’s U-turns. Before Lok Sabha elections, he was talking of having alliance with BJP-Sena. Then he said no. Later, he fielded candidates only against Shiv Sena and announced support to Narendra Modi. All this has confused people and even his supporters, who in Modi wave overwhelmingly voted for BJP-Sena alliance causing MNS to loose deposit in all Lok Sabha seats they contested.
Modi force continued and so did MNS muddle. Raj Thackeray announced that he was going to fight Maharashtra assembly polls then he said he wouldn’t, at one time he was talking to Shiv Sena for alliance, which caused lot of heartburn among his supporters. People had started to lose faith in Raj. For years he was talking about the development plan, which came before the last day of filing applications. There was no justification for the delay. In twelve years of formation of MNS no second line of leadership was developed outside Mumbai.
On the other hand, Shiv Sena is a classic example. It is one of the oldest regional party formed in 1966- ‘fighting’ for sons of the soil issue but it took 29 years in 1995 when they got their first chief minister. Thereafter they never came to power. In 2004 and 2009 elections there were two alliances: Congress-NCP and BJP-Shiv Sena. Suddenly in 2014 everyone decided to fight separately. Candidates had a choice of joining top four parties and people also had an option. In 2009, top four parties (INC, NCP, BJP and SS) together had polled 67.7 per cent votes in 2014 it was as high as 82.3 per cent leaving crumbs to smaller parties. In the same year, if someone opposed to Congress and did not like BJP-Sena alliance candidate, then he had MNS as one of the options. As options increased possibility of MNS vote decreased.
Old stalwarts like Sharad Pawar were conducting 4-5 meetings daily. All BJP, Congress, NCP leaders were campaigning across Maharashtra. On the other hand, Raj was in his comfort zone doing one or two meetings or rallies a day. As MNS had no other leader, this was clearly not enough. Finally, he pursued single line agenda of anti-North Indians. This had no emotional connect outside Mumbai-Thane belt. All these factors were responsible for MNS’ defeat in 2014 Assembly elections. In four party scenario like Maharashtra, it will be very difficult for him to sustain the outfit and he is likely to be a fringe player in the future.
Shiv Sena has done a lot for Maharashtra and Marathi Manoos. Balasaheb Thackeray had initiated the concept of Zunka Bhakar Kendra scheme. BJP-Shiv Sena government had undertaken several developmental works during their tenure. More than 60 flyovers were constructed. Mumbai-Pune Expressway, Konkan Railway and Bandra-Worli Sea link was built. Meanwhile, MNS had nothing to their credit and boast about their achievements.
People vote for their ‘priorities’. The current priorities of Maharashtrians are more or less NOT development – the trump card of Modi government. This is why BJP won in Assam, UP or for that case Himachal Pradesh. Maharashtra is one of most developed state on the economical scale. On social parameters, like literacy, fertility rates, HDIs etc. it is doing very good. If MNS is compared with Sena then it lacks strength and credibility. If this continues in 2019, MNS would vanish.