First, Shiv Sena chief Bal Thackeray made a rare public appearance at Shivaji Park on Friday evening; at around the same time, the Nationalist Congress Party’s low-profile leader and Sharad Pawar’s nephew Ajit Pawar took to Pune’s streets in a ‘torch procession’ ahead of the state’s golden jubilee celebrations.
The Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) burst firecrackers across Mumbai at midnight on Saturday, and the Shiv Sena got an audience of ‘one lakh’ to sing along with Lata Mangeshkar at a public performance in the evening.
Maharashtra’s 50th foundation day celebrations saw political parties outdoing each other to woo the ‘Marathi manoos’.
Much of this revelry had to do with the new-found love parties have developed for the ‘manoos’ after the October 2009 Assembly poll results.
Raj Thackeray’s three-year-old party won 13 seats and damaged the Sena-BJP’s prospects (at least in 30 seats) in the urban Mumbai-Pune-Thane-Nashik belt.
It did so solely by pitting locals against “outsiders.” In Mumbai, the MNS got 24 per cent votes to emerge the second-largest party, with 6 seats ahead of Sena’s 4.
The results have sent warning bells not just to Uddhav but also to the ruling allies. In the next two years, all major municipal bodies in the state, including the BMC, will go to the polls, and parties fear the MNS factor would change calculations.
The big fight between the Congress-NCP and Sena-BJP will be for controlling the BMC, which has a budget of Rs 20,000 crore.
“Don’t just clap for my speech, give your votes to the Sena. Ensure only the saffron flag is unfurled at BMC,” said Thackeray Sr at a party-organised event on Saturday.
“There is a sudden attempt to rediscover Marathi identity, and an apparent competition to cash in on sentiments of the Marathi manoos,” said Surendra Jondhale, political analyst.
The sole sober note came from Sharad Pawar, who told a channel the state had failed to provide basic infrastructure in the last decade.