By securing 13 seats in its maiden outing in the Assembly polls, Maharashtra Navnirman Sena has dealt a blow to Opposition Shiv Sena-Bharatiya Janata Party saffron alliance, making victory easier for the ruling Congress-Nationalist Congress Party combine.
The party contested 143 of the 288 seats in the state. Reacting to the victory of the party, MNS chief and estranged nephew of Shiv Sena supremo Bal Thackeray, Raj told voters that his MLAs would show how to be a good Opposition and will "raise hell" in the Assembly. The three-year-old party succeeded in attracting youth and women votes, ruining Sena's hope of emerging as the single largest party in the state.
The MNS won seats in the areas dominated by middle-class Maharashtrians, like Mahim, Sewree, Vikhroli, Bhandup, Ghatkopar (West), Magathane and Kalyan (rural) by striking a chord among Marathi people on issue of "sons of soil". The party has also secured three seats in Nashik in western Maharashtra, one seat each in Khadkwasala in Pune region and Kannad in Aurangabad. Deputy Chief Minister Chhagan Bhujbal said MNS is following the pattern set by Sena earlier. "Sena fought on the same issue and never grew beyond city boundaries. the MNS is going the same way," he said.
Attributing its defeat to MNS making inroads in the saffron combine's vote base, BJP said the MNS has ate into five to six per cent of votes in Mumbai and Konkan regions. A MNS leader said people are more attracted to the party since it is trying to fill the political vacuum created after the "decline" of the Sena and is fighting for the cause of common people. MNS had raised its voice on all fronts, from its anti-north Indian campaign to making Marathi signboards compulsory across the state, the leader said. The party also protested the power tariff hike which caused a lot of inconvenience to the people. In fact, the protest forced the government to revoke its decision, the leader said.