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After splitting with BJP, Shiv Sena might ally with Raj Thackeray's party for Mumbai civic polls

Ashwin Aghor | Updated on: 11 February 2017, 5:44 IST

In the recent breakup, the Shiv Sena and Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) might be seeing an opportunity to grow in Mumbai. And quite naturally, both these parties can now hope to improve their performance at the corporate tally in Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai (MCGM).

While it is obvious that the Shiv Sena and BJP cadre are elated by the decision, there is one more person who is visibly happy over the breakup. Raj Thackeray!

The split has come for him and his party, the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS), as a blessing in disguise.

And Raj Thackeray has not wasted a single minute to hint at a possible alliance with his estranged cousin Uddhav. The later too is now in trouble as he is faced with an uphill task to win enough seats to retain power in MCGM.

Uddhav Thackeray while announcing breakup with the BJP also announced that he will not form an alliance with any party in the future and will conquer Maharashtra on his own.

But it seems that he has realised that it is easier said than done, as immediately after the announcement, the Shiv Sena took out the 'Marathi Manoos' card to lure the voters.

Rough waters

While Shiv Sena has hopes to perform well in the civic elections, MNS is caught in rough weather and their ship is on the verge of sinking. Their performance is only deteriorating with every election.

Raj Thackeray managed to attract a considerable chunk of voters to his party in the 2011 Assembly elections and bagged 13 Assembly seats. This was probably the only time when any political party had won so many seats and votes in its debut elections.

And the reason of this success was - Raj Thackeray had succeeded in portraying himself as a victim in he Shiv Sena and that had appealed most of the voters in Mumbai.

Similarly, he managed to get 28 corporators elected in the civic elections in 2012. Raj even managed to come to power in the Nashik Municipal Corporation. However, hi charisma has been on a gradual decline ever since.

Raj failed to consolidate his position despite taking up issues such as toll collection across the state. The 2014 Assembly elections came as a major blow to Raj Thackeray and his party when the number of MLAs was reduced to one from the 13 they had in 2011.

Ever since then, Raj has been trying every trick in the book to bounce back. He even consulted astrologers who found faults with his party symbol and suggested changes in it. Despite following the advice, nothing much changed for MNS in the last couple of years.

Now, the breakup between the Shiv Sena and the BJP has come as a ray of hope for Raj and the MNS, who is fighting the battle for survival, leave alone gaining majorly in MCGM elections.

Stepping up

Immediately after Uddhav announced the breakup on 26 January, Raj promptly signaled a possible alliance with the Shiv Sena. He didn't forget to put in a rider, though, indicating that he could form an alliance with cousin Uddhav only if the latter came forward. When confronted, however, both Raj and Uddhav denied any such possibility.

But political activities suddenly heated up when Bala Nandgaonkar, Raj's trusted lieutenant, paid a visit to Matoshri, Uddhav's residence at Bandra on Sunday (29 January).

He is said to have proposed the alliance with the Shiv Sena for the forthcoming MCGM elections.

"It is our longstanding wish that the brothers should come together for the betterment of Mumbai and Maharashtra. If they come together, Marathi Manoos will benefit," said a senior Shiv Sena leader who did not wish to be named.

It is learnt that Raj Thackeray has even conveyed to Uddhav that he can personally come to Matoshri to talk about the alliance if the latter was ready for it.

Sources said that Nandgaonkar met Shiv Sena leaders like Anil Parab, Subhash Desai, Anil Desai and Milind Narvekar. He also has apparently proposed to contest those seats currently held by the MNS and decision about the rest could be taken after the discussion.

Though at present Shiv Sena is not willing to form an alliance with MNS, it might change its mind soon. The Shiv Sena is counting on Marathi votes to beat the BJP, which has an advantage of having non-Marathi voters as well.

For the Shiv Sena the situation is more critical as Marathi votes in Mumbai would be divided among the MNS and the BJP. In this situation, according to the proposal by MNS, they together can consolidate their share of votes and try to win more seats than BJP.

"This is a peculiar situation in Maharashtra's politics. BJP has been asking for 115 seats in MCGM, depending upon its performance in 2014 Lok Sabha and Assembly elections. The votes in Lok Sabha or Assembly do not determine the party's performance in the local self-governing body election. The issues on the local-level are altogether different as compared to the national and the state level. One has to consider every aspect. Performance in the Lok Sabha and Assembly elections can not be the sole criteria to decide the number of seats to be contested in local self-governing body elections. Had the BJP leaders considered all the dimensions, the alliance would not have broken," feels veteran journalist and political analyst Ganesh Torsekar.

BJP leaders seem to have miscalculated the party strength in Mumbai based on the Assembly elections, which was the main reason for them to consider being unbeatable in Mumbai, he added.

Torsekar says that the Shiv Sena and MNS alliance is must if they want to defeat the BJP in Mumbai.

"Going by the sentiments of the common Marathi people of Mumbai, the Shiv Sena is the need of the city. People will prefer a Shiv Sena Shakha (Branch) in their area over a police station. This is the confidence people have in the Shiv Sen and Shiv Sainiks. Local elections are above the issues such as corruption, lack of development and bad roads. I have seen bad roads and flooding in Mumbai since my childhood and situation has not changed much in last seven decades," he said, adding that, "Shiv Sena and MNS, if they come together, can easily defeat BJP and cross the 125 mark."

At present the Shiv Sena has 75 corporators and MNS has 28.

"Even now they are more than 100, put together. If they contest elections in an alliance, the performance will only improve," Torsekar said.

Current party-wise strength in MCGM:

Shiv Sena: 75

BJP: 31

Congress: 52

NCP: 13

MNS: 28

Others: 28

Total: 227

Edited by Jhinuk Sen

First published: 30 January 2017, 11:24 IST
Ashwin Aghor @CatchNews

Journalist based in Mumbai.