It seems to be an end of the road for Raj Thackeray in electoral politics. Once again, voters have vehemently rejected Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) with the party losing in 100 out of the 101 seats it contested in Maharashtra state assembly elections. The only saving grace was Pramod alias Raju R. Patil
Patil won the only seat from the party from Kalyan Rural as he defeated Shiv Sena’s Ramesh Mhatre by a margin of 6,000 votes.
In this election, the party has hardly managed to get 2.5 percent vote share.
In fact, since 2009, the MNS has only seen negative growth. In the 2009 assembly elections, the MNS won 13 seats. In 2014, it won just one and this time it came down to ZERO.
On October 10, Thackeray had launched a blistering campaign against BJP-Shiv Sena government and surprisingly asked the voters to make his party a strong Opposition, which will not bend before the government, which can take the government to task, ask tough questions and will not bend or crawl before the government. But his appeal seems to have fallen on deaf ears.
Raj Thackeray’s party did not contest the Lok Sabha elections, but he campaigned against the BJP and Shiv Sena government. He had vociferously also attacked Prime Minister Narendra Modi and BJP chief Amit Shah with his famous “Laav Re Video” (Play The Video) at his public meetings, yielding zero results.
“Raj Thackeray has many chinks in his armour. His biggest drawbacks are an absence of a strong party organisation and a second rung and general lack of consistency. A strong cadre base and organisational apparatus is needed to convert the crowds at his rallies to votes,” says Dhaval Kulkarni, journalist and author of ‘The Cousins Thackeray: Uddhav, Raj and the shadows of their Senas.’
But this time, Raj changed his strategy and highlighted the issue of jobs, rising unemployment, farmers’ suicide, conditions of banks, potholes, conditions of forts in his address and appealed to put his party in opposition. However, even that hasn’t convinced voters.
Dhaval says that Raj was missing in action for almost five years. “During the Lok Sabha elections, he launched a unique audio-visual campaign for the Congress-NCP but failed to replicate it in the state assembly polls. The general lack of social realities has hampered his ability to launch social engineering projects and create a larger, pan-Maharashtra identity.”
Another senior political Journalist Sudhir Suryawanshi says that though Thackeray is a very good orator, he is not a full-time politician. “He works as per his whims and fancies. After ED notices, he was completely silent and that sent a wrong signal to the people, while Sharad Pawar took on the ED and BJP machinery so people supported him in elections. People love the fighting leader who is always with them. Raj Thackeray needs to do politics 24/7 and visit each nook and corner of the state.”
Further stating that people will vote if your candidate is in competition, Suryawanshi says,”Raj Thackeray failed to field strong faces. Besides, he lacks the resources that are needed to fight elections. After Lok Sabha results, rather than sitting at home, even at the age of 80, Pawar went to Marathwada to visit the drought-affected region and even stood by flood-hit people. Raj needs to learn something from Pawar.”
In August, Thackeray was summoned by the Enforcement Directorate (ED) for questioning in an alleged case of financial irregularities in one of his business ventures, along with his other partners, but the MNS chief says he doesn’t fear to such notices.
It will be interesting to see Raj Thackeray’s next move if he wants to continue to stay relevant in Maharashtra’s electoral politics.
This article was first published in Mumbai Mirror