With oust Modi-Shah message, MNS preps for LS polls

Once an admirer of the Gujarat model, eight years down the line  Maharashtra Navnirman Sena president Raj Thackeray has emerged as one of the bitter critics of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

The MNS is nowhere in electoral contest this Lok Sabha election, but Raj has become the focal point of politics of Maharashtra.
 
Though MNS consciously decided not to contest the polls, the 51-year-old nephew of the late Shiv Sena founder Bal Thackeray is sending out a message - oust Modi and BJP president Amit Shah from power.
 
Shiv Sena president Uddhav Thackeray had not reacted to Raj's tirade against Modi-Shah, but Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis has made it clear - the MNS chief is working for Congress-NCP and is taking orders from NCP supremo Sharad Pawar.
 
In his rallies, Raj, an orator-par-excellence, is making video presentations and targeting Modi over "Hitler-style dictatorship", claims of building 8,50,000 toilets in a week in Bihar and Harisal digital village of Maharashtra.
  
He would be addressing a dozen rallies, and at those he has addressed, he has sprung a surprise every time.
 
He also appears to defend Congress president Rahul Gandhi and takes forward the charge of scam in Rafale deal.
 
"Raj is working on two things - firstly, he is making clear he is against Modi-Shah duo, secondly, he is preparing ground for the Vidhan Sabha elections...he is also not asking votes for any person or political party," veteran political observer Prakash Akolkar told DH.
 
According to him, this is the first time in India's electoral history that a registered and recognised party - that is not contesting polls - is holding rallies and drawing more crowd than the fueding ruling and opposition parties. "He has revived his party," added Akolkar.
 
In 2006, Raj walked out of the fold of his uncle following differences with cousin Uddhav.
 
Though Raj has been touching issues concerning the common man, things are not  working for him. He continues to take up the issues of 'Marathi-manoos', and speaks like his late uncle and mentor. Yet, his acceptance has reduced if one goes by sheer political numbers.
 
In August 2011, he undertook a nine-day tour of Gujarat and admired the then Chief Minister Narendra Modi for his model of development; post 2014, he emerged as one of the most vocal critics of Modi.

Point of no return

The 2014 Maharashtra polls also saw that Raj and Uddhav had reached a point of no return and there was no scope of any political rapprochement between the two Thackeray cousins.
 
In 2009, in Lok Sabha polls, though MNS did not win any seats, it damaged the prospects of the Sena-BJP saffron alliance in Mumbai. In Assembly polls, it won 11 of the 288 seats and damaged the prospects of Sena and BJP in urban pockets by snatching votes.
 
In 2014, the MNS could not win a single seat in Lok Sabha polls but managed just one seat in the Assembly.

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