Raj Thackeray is the estranged cousin of Shiv Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray. He was seen as the political heir of Sena founder Bal Thackeray. But when Balasaheb died, as he was fondly known, he selected his son Uddhav as his successor, Raj left the family fold in 2005 to launch his own party, which claims an almost identical vote bank based on regional chauvinism. Uddhav Thackeray’s reported phone calls to Raj during his break-up with the BJP last month triggered speculation of a reunion. The two spoke twice in a week, but said there was nothing political about the chats. Nine years after breaking away from the Shiv Sena, Raj Thackeray recently fumbled over his own party symbol and urged people to vote for “the bow and arrow” – the Sena’s symbol – before correcting himself. In footage from a rally a few days ago, Thackeray, the chief of the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena, is seen saying, “…this election vote for dhanush…err..rail engine.” This may not be an error by Raj Thackeray. It was a calculated step by him to consolidate the Marathi votes. He is actually hinting that MNS might ally with Shiv Sena post election. The whole new equation can emerge, which can fail the political pundits in Maharashtra. It is now a two-way fight between BJP and SENA-MNS. Cong-NCP looks out of the picture. Voters are confused for whom they should vote – BJP or Sena. Thanks to the stupidity of both the parties. If they have not broken the alliance, they could have got a clear nod from voters for formation of government. Raj Thackeray’s party was allotted the railway engine as a poll symbol in 2010 after the Election Commission recognised it as a state party.
Uddhav Thackeray claimed that BJP was trying to loot Maharashtra. “What was the purpose of Gujarat CM Anandiben Patel’s visit to Mumbai recently? She told industrialists in Maharashtra to move base from here to Gujarat. This is an attempt to plunder Maharashtra? Maharashtra Navnirman Sena chief Raj Thackeray too had raked the same issue in his rally. The Sena also came down heavily on BJP invoking Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj, who is a state icon. It also claimed that BJP aimed at axing Maharashtra into different parts including Vidarbha, and that the Sena will always stand for a unified Maharashtra. If you look at the speeches of Uddhav and Raj, they both are on similar line of thought and subject. These carefully done careless errors give indication that post elections, both brothers may merge with each other to gain power.
Balasaheb Thackeray was a great follower and admirer of Shivaji Maharaj and named his party Shiv Sena, after him. He gave ‘Marathi Manoos’ an existence and stability. This is the first election in Maharashtra to be held in the absence of Balasaheb Thackeray. Modi showed maturity by not commenting on Shiv Sena but he preferred to hang on with Shivaji Maharaj. The sons-of-the-soil or the ‘Marathi Manoos’ has been the Sena’s emotive issue, but during its 25 years of governing the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation, it has not been able to prevent Marathi medium civic schools from shutting down. Other issues hardly ever appeared on the Sena’s agenda.
There is one more threat to Maharashtra, if these two brothers won’t come together, BJP may divide the state in pieces. Recently, Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) was caught in a rift as two senior party leaders voiced contradicting opinions over splitting Maharashtra. While Modi assured the public that no one can divide Maharashtra, state BJP President Devendra Fadnavis took an opposite stand on the same day, saying that they (the BJP) were firm on their demand for a separate Vidarbha state. BJP has always supported for the demand of small states. Even Modiji is aware of demand for small states. This different opinion voiced by Fadnavis over splitting Maharashtra, when the state assembly elections are just few days away, has not only given opposition parties an upper hand to slam the BJP, but has also put the public in a dilemma. The Shiv Sena, who is opposing the BJP’s demand of a separate Vidharbha state, had launched a broadside at the BJP soon after breaking its 25-year-old alliance. If you want to save Maharashtra then you should know whom to vote for.