MNS finds no takers for 2019 general elections

MNS finds no takers for 2019 general elections

MNS chief Raj Thackeray at a meeting with Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis. FILE

The Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) and its president Raj Thackeray has become a 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 in Maharashtra, the Congress has rejected the suggestion by the Sharad Pawar-led NCP to include the MNS in the grand alliance, a senior leader, privy to the developments, told DH.

Raj, in the last four years, has carried out a full-blown attack on Prime Minister Narendra Modi and president Amit Shah. He has mocked Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis on several occasions.

The MNS had actively participated in the September 10 nation-wide 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 NCP — which had run the Democratic Front government in Maharashtra together for 15 years from 1999-2014 — has decided to contest the 2019 Lok Sabha polls and the Assembly polls together and is trying to form a grand alliance. They are in touch with a dozen small parties and leaders.

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

Raj has, in the recent past, held 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 address many political issues.

"Because of the anti-North India 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 on the Assembly elections in Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh," the senior leader told DH.

Also, it has to be noted that the performance of MNS has come down between 2009 and 2014.

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

Similarly, in the 2009 Vidhan Sabha elections, he put up candidates in 143 seats and won only 13 seats, while damaging the prospects of the Shiv Sena in many places.

In the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, Raj had put up candidates in 10 places and all of them lost their deposits.

In the 2014 Vidhan Sabha polls, he put up candidates in 250 places. However, his party could get only one seat.

Even in the polls to BrihanMumbai Municipal Corporation, the performance of the MNS has not been good.

Shiv Sena president Uddhav Thackeray has in the past rejected the idea of joining hands with his estranged cousin, but a section of Sena and MNS leaders feel that they must come together to consolidate the votes of Marathi-manoos.