LS polls: NCP wants MNS in grand alliance, Cong wary

LS polls: NCP wants MNS in grand alliance, Cong wary

MNS chief Raj Thackeray. (ANI file pic)

The Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) and its president Raj Thackeray seem to be the bone of contention between the Congress and the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) in the run-up to the crucial 2019 polls.

Even as there are efforts to form a 'Mahagathbandhan' (Grand Alliance) in Maharashtra, the Congress has rejected the idea of the Sharad Pawar-led NCP to include the MNS in the Grand Alliance.

What is to be noted here is that Raj is one of those politicians who in the last four years had carried out a full-blown attack on Prime Minister Narendra Modi and BJP president Amit Shah, besides mocking Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis on several occasions.

In fact, MNS had actively participated in the September 10 nationwide shutdown over rising fuel prices and depreciation of the rupee that was led by the Congress and saw the participation of 21 Opposition parties.

The Congress and the NCP - which ran the Democratic Front government in Maharashtra together for 15 years from 1999-2014 - has in principle decided to contest the 2019 Lok Sabha polls and the Assembly polls together and is trying to form a Grand Alliance and is in touch with a dozen small parties and leaders.

The NCP had proposed that the MNS be included in the 'Mahagathbandhan'.

However, Congress leaders, including Maharashtra Pradesh Congress Committee President Ashok Chavan and Mumbai Regional Congress Committee President Sanjay Nirupam, have rejected the idea.

It may be recalled that in the recent past Raj had a couple of informal meetings with Pawar.

On February 21, Raj conducted a public interview of Pawar at a function in Pune organised by the Jagtik Marathi Academy, during which the Maratha strongman addressed a lot of political issues.

"The NCP did come up with a proposal to include Raj Thackeray in the 'Mahagathbandhan', but the Congress has apprehensions and it could have a political backlash," a senior leader, who is privy to the developments, told DH.

"Because of the anti-North Indian stand of the MNS, the inclusion of the party in the Grand Alliance could work otherwise. It may not only have an impact in the 2019 Lok Sabha polls but also in the Assembly elections as well, particularly in Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh," the senior leader said.

Also, it has to be noted that the MNS has not performed well in the 2009 and 2014 polls.

For Raj, the challenge is real – in the 2009 Lok Sabha elections, MNS contested 12 seats and its candidates gathered 1.25 lakh votes on an average in each seat and damaged the prospects of the Shiv Sena in many places.

Similarly, in the 2009 Vidhan Sabha elections, he put up candidates in 143 seats and 13 of them won the elections. In many places, it damaged the prospects of the Shiv Sena.

In the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, he had put up candidates in 10 places and all of them lost their deposits. In the 2014 Vidhan Sabha polls, Raj has put up candidates in 250 places, however, his party could get only one seat.

In the polls to the BrihanMumbai Municipal Corporation, too, the MNS's performance has not been good. In the past, Shiv Sena president Uddhav Thackeray had rejected the idea of joining hands with his estranged cousin, but a section of leaders from the Sena and MNS feel that they must come together to consolidate the votes of the Marathi 'manoos'.