On Thursday, as it became clear that the Shiv Sena would not form the next state government, Sena Bhavan was deserted.
What stung most, perhaps, was that the party had lost in Mahim, a constituency it considered its home turf.
Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) candidate Nitin Sardesai, a builder and close confidante of Raj Thackeray, swept the seat with 48,734 votes, beating Sena rebel Sada Sarvankar by 9,000 votes. The Sena candidate, actor Aadesh Bandekar, stood a humiliating third with 36,364 votes.
The scene couldn’t be more different just across the road at Matoshree Towers, the MNS headquarters, where there was a loud celebration. Amid fluttering flags and cries of “Raj saheb zindabad”, MNS workers rejoiced at capturing 13 seats and storming the Sena “fortress”.
Aroon Tikekar, political commentator and former editor of a Marathi daily, said this could have been avoided if the Sena had fielded the right candidate. “The Sena is paying for its mistakes. By fielding an actor, the party confused the voter,” he said.
But Sardesai attributed the win to the MNS charisma and agenda. “It’s a great feeling to win in this Marathi-dominated seat. Thackeray’s charisma, our pro-development agenda and the activists’ hard work paid off,” said Sardesai amidst a huge crowd of cheering party workers.
A disappointed Bandekar tried to keep his smile intact. “I have learnt a lot of lessons. With only 13 days of campaigning, I could garner over 36,000 votes. Now I will work seriously for the people,” said Bandekar, who is not sure how he will get back to television now that he has quit all his shows.