Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) chief Raj Thackeray began a two-day tour of Nashik district on Wednesday to rebuild his party’s sagging fortunes ahead of the crucial civic body polls to be held in February 2022.
Mr. Thackeray, who arrived with the MNS brass, was greeted in rain-hit Nashik by a large body of his supporters.
This is the MNS chief’s third visit to the district in less than two months, thus signifying his intent on ‘recapturing’ the Nashik Municipal Corporation (NMC), once considered as his party’s bastion.
According to party sources, Mr. Thackeray along with his son Amit Thackeray, will be holding meetings with office bearers to chalk out a strategy for the upcoming civic body poll and announce the names of the new branch presidents in an overhaul exercise.
Efforts in Pune too
The MNS chief has been concentrating on rebuilding the party in Pune as well, inaugurating a “war office” earlier this year in the city.
The MNS had notched up impressive performances in the 2012 polls to both the civic bodies at a time when the estranged cousin of Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray was considered a potent force in Maharashtra politics.
However, since then, internal bickering and haphazard campaigning have caused the party to implode.
Mr. Thackeray’s fall commenced with the MNS’ twin debacles in the 2014 parliamentary and Assembly elections which left the party in utter disarray, with the slide continuing through the 2017 civic polls and the 2019 State and national elections.
In 2012, the MNS held the key to the Nashik civic body, winning 40 of the 122 seats. It had also popped a surprise in the 2012 civic polls in Pune, emerging as the second-largest party ahead of the Congress and the BJP.
Following their 2012 civic poll win in Nashik , the MNS had embarked on a number of public work projects, only to see them in utter disarray five years later as the party withered away with the defection of a number of local leaders.
The party’s showing in the 2017 civic polls was abysmal, with only 13 corporators being elected across 10 municipal corporations.
The party does not have a single MLA in the legislature.
Change of ideological direction
After spiritedly campaigning — and failing miserably — against the BJP in the 2019 Lok Sabha election, the MNS was seen to be gravitating towards the saffron party subsequently. This was symbolised by Mr. Raj Thackeray’s adoption last year of a saffron flag incorporating Chhatrapati Shivaji’s royal seal or ‘Rajmudra’.
This change of ideological direction was motivated by an attempt to seize the ‘vacant Hindutva space’ in Maharashtra following the ideologically opposed alliance of Mr. Uddhav Thackeray’s Shiv Sena with Sharad Pawar’s Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) and the Congress in forming the MVA government to keep the BJP out of power.