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Raj gets opening balance in his account

Raj Thackeray?s biggest political gamble seems to have paid off well enough for him in civic bodies, reports Sweta Ramanujan-Dixit.

india Updated: Feb 02, 2007 23:48 IST

All he had asked for was one chance. Seven seats in Mumbai, two in Thane, 12 in Nashik, eight in Pune, two in Nagpur — Raj Thackeray’s biggest political gamble seems to have paid off well enough for him to "open an account" in civic bodies across Maharashtra.

So, how did a rookie outfit nudge out seasoned heavyweights and create its own little political space?

Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) put up young, educated and clean professionals as candidates. Raj forbade his party workers from using anything that would bring their erstwhile links with the Shiv Sena to the fore — no red tikka on the forehead, no gold chains and rings, no touching his feet. He himself shed the pyjama-kurta stereotype of a politician and switched to trousers and formal shirts so the young, urban crowd could connect with him.

His party focused on the Sena’s vote bank of middle-class Maharashtrians, but made it a point to insist that it represented the Dalits and minorities too. It also did not base its civic polls campaign on Hindutva, but on the needs of Mumbai and the state.

Raj may not have bagged many seats in the cash-rich Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC), but his year-old MNS has taken its first few baby steps.

In Mumbai, five of the seven seats MNS has won were with the Sena. One of these had Mayor and Sena candidate Datta Dalvi as the sitting corporator. In Nashik, the MNS is all set to play kingmaker after winning 12 of the 108 seats in the Nashik Municipal Corporation (NMC).

The Sena-Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) with 40 seats and Congress-NCP with 38 are some distance from the 55 seats needed to attain a clear majority. So MNS, along with Independents, is going to be a deciding factor.

"This is a reasonably good start. Raj should be pleased with this performance because he didn’t have any achievements to showcase, considering he just moved out of the Sena," said B Venkatesh Kumar, reader, Rajiv Gandhi Center for Contemporary Studies, University of Mumbai. "But if he can consolidate on this and work hard, he can improve in a few years."

(With inputs from Zeeshan Sheikh and Sanjeev Shivadekar)