By noon on Thursday, the Shiv Sena headquarters in central Mumbai’s Dadar locality were deserted. A few blocks away near Matunga station , the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena’s (MNS’s) headquarters in the Matoshree Towers resounded to the beat of drums.
In Dadar-Mahim area, the bastion that Shiv Sena held for 43 years, the tiger had been tamed.
The MNS had beaten the Sena where it had never suffered an electoral loss.
In its worst performance in two decades, the Sena’s tally slipped from 62 in 2004 to 44 in the first Assembly election contested with Uddhav Thackeray solely in charge and party supremo Bal Thackeray on the sidelines.
But Sainiks ducked questions in public about how effective Uddhav was as leader. “An appropriate statement on the results will be faxed from Sena Bhavan,” party spokesperson and winner from Goregaon, Subhash Desai, said.
“We accept defeat. But this is a perfect example of the division of the Marathi vote by the Congress. The Congress should thank the MNS and Raj Thackeray for this victory,” said another Sena spokesperson Sanjay Raut.
Political commentator Surendra Jondhale, however, said the results could trigger a drift by Sainiks towards the MNS, attracted by the firebrand style of Raj Thackeray, who takes after his uncle, the Sena supremo. “Uddhav has failed to give an effective leadership and this will lead to a mass outflow of Shiv Sainiks to the MNS,” Jondhale said.
Writing the Sena off may be premature. It still has a substantial support base. But it will all depend on how Uddhav reacts to this rude jolt.
The next and possibly decisive round of the battle between the two cousins will be two-and-a-half years from now when the civic polls are held in Mumbai.
The Sena has ruled the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) for a decade. If Uddhav manages to retain power in the BMC, a comeback will be on.