After a severe drubbing in Lok Sabha elections in Maharashtra, the Congress is reworking its strategy for the upcoming assembly polls in the state that it has ruled in coalition with the Nationalist Congress Party since 1999.
The party is banking heavily on Raj Thackeray’s Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) to cut into the opposition votes — enabling the ruling coalition to secure a “respectable” figure in the polls. Congress leaders are of the view that the Narendra Modi government’s “failure” to check price rise has disillusioned a large section of voters, resulting in a close contest.
Though Raj has often praised PM Modi, he does not share cordial relations with the BJP and the Shiv Sena led by his cousin Uddhav Thackeray. He rejected the NDA’s offer of an arrangement to avert the division of Marathi votes in the Lok Sabha elections.
The sides however, are willing to come together to fight the BJP-Sena combine. The MNS joined hands with the Congress-NCP to retain control over the Nashik municipal corporation, enabling MNS to claim the mayor’s post in Maharashtra’s fourth largest city.
According to Congress leaders, Raj’s political survival in the state depends on his party’s performance in assembly polls.
In 2009 elections, the MNS won 13 seats and dented the prospects of BJP-Shiv Sena in many constituencies. “In such a scenario, Raj will emerge as a king maker,” a state Congress leader said.