One of my colleagues recently told me, “Maharashtra Navnirman Sena chief Raj Thackeray is all the time scolding someone or the other. He never seems to be saying anything for himself.” Watching one of his campaign speeches, I realised this was true. Ever since he formed his political party Raj has excelled in finding fault with all his opponents and only he seems to have got everything right.
But has he got anything right at all? After he was sidelined in the Shiv Sena, Raj set up the MNS essentially to poach the Sena’s core voter base. But that kind of negativity is no way to build a political party.
Even Sharad Pawar, who broke up with the Congress twice in his career rebelling against the two Mrs Gandhis — Indira and Sonia - while building his voter base took into consideration the interests of farmers, the working classes and, of course, his capitalist friends so that his party could chug along under l its own steam.
But right from the beginning Raj’s party comprised mostly builders and brokers who were there to merely protect their own business interests. They were not interested to further any political agenda that Raj may or may not have formulated over the years.
And, by the very nature of that composition, the grassroots of the party is full of alleged extortionists and blackmailers who, once again, are interested in pursuing only their material interests.
However, it seems Raj may not really have had much of a political agenda beyond beating up poor north Indian peanut vendors and taxi drivers in Bombay. He seems to have not understood that a political party cannot stand on its own two feet when its elected representatives are used as chips towards driving hard political bargains.
This strategy worked during the Congress rule in Maharashtra because Congress leaders had wished to cut the Shiv Sena down to size during the lifetime of Bal Thackeray.
But once Thackeray was no more that was no longer a priority for the Congress. We all know what happened when Raj tried to run with the hares and hunt with the hounds during the Lok Sabha elections. When people could get the originals in both the Lok Sabha and the Vidhan Sabha elections why would they opt for a wannabe?
Moreover, Raj has not even been honest about his own stated policies and programmes. If he was beating up poor north Indians, it was merely to enhance his image as a protector of the Marathi manoos. But simultaneously on the one hand he was doing business with rich North Indians.
On the other, he was driving the hard working middle class Maharashtrians out of home and hearth to serve his own material interests. This is not something that is hidden from his own party men and they take their cue from him.
In contrast, while his older cousin Uddhav Thackeray does not command the loyalty and devotion that his father did among the Shiv Sainiks, party workers are still standing by him because Uddhav still offers them a political future.
That Uddhav fought the recent assembly elections with his back to the wall and kept his neck above water is proof enough. The BJP could neither demolish Uddhav during the elections nor could it diminish him during government formation. However, it was Raj who reportedly had to meet Maharashtra chief minister Devendra Fadnavis on Tuesday to stop MNS leaders from joining the BJP in hordes.
This, I believe, is poetic justice. If you wish to live by the sword, you might also have to die by the sword.
And what goes around comes around in full measure. Raj’s party finally seems to be crumbling like a cookie at the slightest pressure.