As the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) celebrates its seventh foundation day on Saturday, the party seems to be at crossroads, with its cadres in a state of confusion in the run-up to the 2014 elections.
While MNS chief Raj Thackeray is on a statewide tour to strengthen his base, there seems to hardly any preparation at the ground level.
"The party is directionless as it has neither any ideology nor an agenda," said Venkatesh Kumar, professor, Tata Institute of Social Sciences. "The party should be constantly reinventing and the Marathi platform does not appeal to the youth any longer," he added.
Similar is the reaction of Prakash Bal, a noted political analyst who says that crowds in meetings do not necessarily translate into votes. "Politics does not work in this way where Raj is just seeking votes and promising to do wonders. He has to present his vision and agenda, which unfortunately is not forthcoming from him," he added.
When the party was formed in 2006, it promised to take various sections together. However, the shock came in the 2007 civic elections, when MNS performed miserably while its bête-noire the Shiv Sena did incredibly well, winning major civic bodies.
Then 2008 was the watershed year when MNS cadres disrupted railway exams, beat up north Indians, fought for local jobs and languages and Raj cleverly fashioned himself as the messiah of Maharashtrians.
In the 2009 elections, the MNS did brilliantly. Apart from bagging multiple seats, it was able to stop its arch rival, the saffron alliance, from bagging power.
However, the same magic did not work in the 2012 civic elections, where it could not stop the Sena-BJP from winning both the Mumbai and Thane civic bodies.
"The problem is that Raj in these seven years was not able to build a strong structure like the Sena," said Prakash Bal. "His charisma has a limit and an organisational network is important, which unfortunately is missing."
The MNS has denied any confusion, saying that the party is in the growth mode. "We are in a transitional stage, and being the youngest party, we have done incredibly well," said Shirish Parkar, MNS spokesperson. "We had our setbacks due to scarcity of resources at our disposal and also due to inexperienced candidates," he added.