The battle between the Shiv Sena and MNS has been an emotional one ever since the Thackeray cousin, Raj, split from the family and set up his rival Maharashtra Navnirman Sena in 2006.
Now, Shiv Sena chief Uddhav seems to have had the last laugh.
Though admittedly now playing second fiddle — if that — to the BJP, the Shiv Sena has nearly doubled its number of seats in the state assembly, from 33 in 2009 to 63 on Sunday, and has dealt a seeming death blow to the MNS, winning back nearly every Maharashtrian-dominated seat that it had lost to that party in Mumbai in the last assembly election.
The cherry on the cake has been the towering stature of some of those who have had to bite the dust.
MNS stalwart and former Shiv Sena leader Bala Nandgaonkar lost from Shivadi, Pravin Darekar from Magathane, Nitin Sardesai from Mahim, Mangesh Sangle from Vikhroli and Shishir Shinde from Bhandup. Each was vanquished by the rival Shiv Sena candidate.
In Shivadi, the Sena’s Ajay Choudhari defeated Nandgaonkar by 41,909 votes. Shivadi, formerly the Parel constituency, was a citadel of the saffron party for decades, until Nandgaonkar breached it in 2009 — the MNS’s first Assembly election.
“Last time, it was by accident that the MNS got elected. The people realised their mistake and voted us back,” Choudhari said on Sunday.
Similarly, in Vikhroli, Sangle was defeated at the hands of Sunil Raut, brother of Shiv Sena MP Sanjay Raut. Sunil attributed Sangle’s defeat to his “non-performance”. “The Sena workers came back with a vengeance and defeated him,” Sunil said.
What perhaps worked most against the MNS was Raj Thackeray’s relative silence during this campaign.
Ahead of the 2009 state election, he had created a stir by targeting north Indians migrants and presenting himself as the messiah of the local ‘sons of the soil’. His party was seen as a more vocal, more action-driven version of the Shiv Sena — and he was fondly described as reminiscent of his uncle, Uddhav’s father Bal Thackeray, who had pitched vitriolic campaigns during his campaigns, demanding jobs and greater opportunities for Maharashtrians, particularly in Mumbai.
For Nandgaonkar, though, the losses are a reflection not of an ineffectual campaign but of a breach in communication.
“We worked hard but we were unsuccessful in conveying our achievements to the people,” he said on Sunday. “The voters felt that Sena could do better than us. Now let’s see what they do.”
Political analysts, meanwhile, say Raj will have a hard time recovering from this blow.
“The MNS did not do much for their Maharashtrian votebank after the 2009 election and, in that sense, failed miserably,” said political analyst B Venkatesh Kumar. “This time around, MNS workers were low on enthusiasm, the party was in disarray, and the results reflect this.”