Is the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) the beneficiary of the decline of the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS)? A closer look at voting patterns in all 13 seats that the MNS won in 2009 reveals how many voters, probably disillusioned with MNS chief Raj Thackeray, went to the BJP, instead of the naturally assumed option of the Shiv Sena.
This means the votes of the Marathi manoos may no longer remain within the ambit of the two Senas alone. In the future, the two parties will have a real threat of losing their hold over their core voter base to the BJP.
Of the 13 seats MNS held in 2009, seven, including most in Mumbai, were bagged by the Sena while six were won by the BJP. The fact that the BJP has gained a foothold in hitherto MNS strongholds is clear in all three seats in Nashik city.
Nashik has been Raj’s stronghold since his days as a youth leader in the Sena. However, this time, the MNS, in two of the three seats, got relegated to the fifth and sixth spots. The BJP emerged victorious in all three seats.
For instance, in Nashik Central, MNS leader Vasant Gite polled 32,000 votes compared to the 62,000-odd votes in 2009.
The Sena, which had fought the seat in the last election, retained its 24,000 votes. The BJP bagged more than 61,000 votes to emerge as a clear winner.
In areas where the BJP didn’t win, it still managed to get a large chunk of votes. In Mahim, for instance, the BJP managed a massive vote share of more than 33,000 votes.
“It’s very clear that the Modi impact is still prevalent. Otherwise it isn’t possible for an unknown face [BJP candidate] to garner so many votes. That’s what caused our party’s defeat,” said Nitin Sardesai, MNS MLA from Mahim who was defeated by the Sena.
Many believe that the shift is mostly because of personality-driven politics.
“The young MNS voter was lured by Raj’s persona. When he felt unhappy with Raj, he turned to Modi and got drawn in by the larger-than-life image that the BJP created,” said another MNS leader.