Till Wednesday, the saffron combine would dismiss Raj Thackeray’s Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) as a spoiler for the state Assembly polls, but Thursday’s results proved it wrong.
The three-year-old party shocked the Shiv Sena rank and file by winning more seats than the Sena in the city.
While the Sena won four seats, the MNS bagged six, emerging the second largest party after the Congress (17 seats) in Mumbai.
The MNS won 13 seats in the state.
“We have scored over the Sena in Mumbai,” said Anil Shidore, director, MNS’ research and social cell.
He added that the party will ensure that all 13 legislators perform and set an example for others.
In the Mumbai-Pune-Thane-Nashik belt, Raj’s party also damaged the prospects of the Sena-Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in over 30 seats, thus contributing to the victory of the Congress-Nationalist Congress Party in the state.
With its impressive performance in the Assembly polls, the MNS has emerged as a considerable force.
Also, in terms of legislators in the city, the MNS is a bigger party than the Sena.
Raj’s next step would be to consolidate his position and gradually occupy the political space that the Sena now shares with it. “Since our party is in the opposition, I will show them [Sena-BJP] how to function as an effective opposition party,” Raj said.
The MNS’ next target is to sweep the civic polls to be held in 2012.
The Sena derives influence and power from the municipal body that it is ruling for two decades.
If the Sena loses the civic polls, it will find it difficult to recover.
“Our legislators will nurture their constituencies and we will definitely score in the coming civic polls,” said Shidore.
The MNS will also train its sights on the Thane and Nashik civic bodies — both ruled by the saffron combine.
Raj seems to want to emerge as an alternative to the Congress-NCP, but that is not easy.
Political analyst B. Venkatesh Kumar said: “The entire focus will be how the Congress-NCP government now handles Raj Thackeray. He has grown due to tactical support of the ruling combine.”
Political analyst Nilu Damle said Raj has managed to build an image of both anti-establishment party as well an alternative to the Sena.
“Raj has excellent communication skills where he is able to convince the people of his intentions. He knows the pulse of
the electorate,” Damle added.