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Congress looks to gain from MNS-Sena crossfire

By Saubhadro Chatterji
October 10, 2009 03:20 IST
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"You have taken enough shots. Now sit down. Let the people see me," Maharashtra Navnirman Sena Raj Thackeray orders a battery of TV cameraman (mostly with handycams) trying to capture his election rally.

Early this year, it was the TV grabs of non-Marathi taxi drivers and street vendors getting mercilessly beaten up by his goons that quickly brought Thackeray the political fame and image he was trying to achieve. As the latest self-proclaimed messiah of Marathi manoos has jumped into the electoral fray with his tricolour party flag and Chhatrapati Shivaji's pictures, it is giving sleepless nights to the opposition alliance of Bharatiya Janata Party-Shiv Sena that hopes to come back to power in Maharashtra after 10 years.

From wearing oversized glasses to the oratory style and issues--Raj Thackeray is trying to emulate whatever his uncle Balasaheb Thackery and the Shiv Sena stood for. A perturbed Uddhav Thackeray, his cousin and son of Balasaheb, already called him "a contractor working on commission for the ruling Congress-Nationalist Congress Party combination because he fears that he might be put in a cage like a rat if NCP-Congress comes to power".

This assessment has come after Balasaheb Thackeray named his once-favourite nephew as "Jinnah of Maharashtra".

Five months ago, Raj Thackeray's MNS contested the Lok Sabha polls for the first time and drew a big zero. But it's hardly a consolation prize for the Sena. The MNS had proved that it might not win seats but it would not allow the Sena win them either. In Lok Sabha polls in Nashik, Sena strongman Datta Gaikwad got 158,239 votes and finished the race as the second runner-up. As MNS candidate Hemant Godse lapped up 216,674 votes, NCP's Samir Bhujbal won the seat Nashik seat by a margin of just 22,032 votes.

"They (MNS) got some votes during the Lok Sabha election but now they will not get anything. People have realised if they support the MNS, votes will be wasted. It will only benefit the Congress-NCP combination," Datta Gaikwad said over the phone while campaigning for his party.

"In 2008, even when our party was absolutely new, we managed to get 165,000 votes in this district in the Zila Parishad election. People have realised if Rajbhau is given power, he will do a great job," says Nandu Khairnar, the MNS office in-charge of the city.

In industrially developed placed like Nashik (it is the third largest industrial belt in Maharashtra) the MNS is trying to make inroads by talking about job for the locals. "Nashik has Mahindra factory, Bosch unit, Indian Security Press among other establishments. But outsiders have come to occupy job here while the unemployment among the locals are on a rise. The MNS is trying to encash this sentiment of the youth," observes Sampat Deogire, a local resident.

The MNS is likely to hurt Shivsena not just in Nashik where Raj Thackeray was in-command on behalf of his erstwhile party and has now managed to rope in almost all important local leaders. But in Mumbai, Thane, and some Western Maharashtra districts including Pune, it is likely to wound the tiger's party.

Vasantrao Pawar, former NCP MP and now an MLC in Mumbai assembly is confident that this cross firing between the SS and the MNS will benefit the ruling Congress-NCP coalition. "During the Lok Sabha election, it mainly helped the Congress. This time, NCP will also get political benefits in a big way from this commotion in the opposition."

Gaikwad slams this MNS' cry for Marathi manoos, "Everyone knows that Balasaheb Thackeray is the original voice for the Marathi manoos. This guy is just trying to copy him." "It might have been created by the SS but more important thing is who is keeping the tempo. The youth has noticed that only Raj Thackeray talks about them," replies MNS functionary S K Aire. While SS is crying foul, Raj Thackeray's party is busy eroding its parent organization. In Nashik district, MNS has given tickets to Uttamrao Dikle and Raju Vairagar, who fled SS just before the election.

In the MNS' poll office here, the walls are crowded with pictures of Shivaji and Babsaheb Ambedkar. But, at one side, is a huge picture of Raj Thackeray along with Balasaheb Thackeray. The 'old tiger' smiles with his nephew in the frame even as he fights his one last battle against him in the field.

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Saubhadro Chatterji in Nashik
Source: source