The face-off between the MNS and the NCP is a sign of things to come as we approach the 2014 polls.
The row is between two parties that have contrasting ideologies but an uncannily similar grassroots cadre and a culture that lends itself to political rowdiness. Both parties are trying to occupy more political space and their ambitious leaders — Ajit Pawar and Raj Thackeray — are looking at establishing state-level leadership.
Significantly, in the last assembly polls, the NCP lost votes, largely of youngsters, to the MNS. In this case, the first blame lies with the MNS. Trouble started after Thackeray slammed Ajit Pawar in the NCP bastion in western Maharashtra, in a rally and in a language studiously learnt from his uncle.
Thackeray, who is touring Maharashtra, hopes to pitch the MNS as the main opposition party after his uncle’s demise. While one hopes that voters will see through this political machismo, this publicity stunt has brought some dividends for Thackeray.
“It is to prove that Thackeray’s legacy rests with Raj. He can take on someone of Ajit Pawar’s stature in his bastion, like his uncle took on senior Pawar. It is a call to Sainiks, who are disgruntled and willing to jump to the MNS,” said Surendra Jondhale, political analyst.
“It’s at the cost of real development agenda. It’s frivolous politicking,” said B Venkatesh Kumar, another analyst.
Ajit Pawar has now threatened to give a “befitting reply” if the MNS continues with its “theatrics”.
As a senior NCP leader said: “Ajit Pawar will not tolerate abusive language. This is a publicity stunt by the MNS, but it does not do us harm to stay in the headlines. This is far better than corruption allegations.”
Has the Ajit Pawar versus Raj Thackeray battle just begun?