Following the split between the Shiv Sena and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), speculations are rife over whether the warring Thackeray cousins, Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray and Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) chief Raj Thackeray, will join forces to fight the upcoming state elections.
With a five-cornered contest in the state after the breaking of alliances, the MNS and the Sena will face each other directly for the first time. Both parties who have similar agendas, and have a similar voter base, are bound to cut into each other’s votes in several constituencies.
The rumours of a patch-up picked up after Sena MP Sanjay Raut in a TV programme said Uddhav had inquired about Raj’s health last week. Raj, who was unwell, had returned halfway from a party candidate’s interview, after feeling restless.
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For now, the Thackerays are staring at an election that could make or break their careers. While Uddhav has dared to bear the weight of the Sena by contesting all 288 seats, Raj who faced a major drubbing in the Lok Sabha polls needs to win at least his existing 13 seats.
According to sources, if the two brothers arrive at some tacit understanding of not pitching candidates against each other in some constituencies, it could be mutually beneficial.
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The spot left vacant in 12 municipal bodies, including Mumbai and Thane, with the BJP backing out of the alliance could be filled up by the MNS. In Mumbai civic body, the Sena, which has 75 seats, could replace the BJP which has 31 corporators with the MNS which has 28 corporators to keep power.
A post-poll alliance or a possibility of the MNS helping the Sena retain power in the BMC cannot be ruled out, sources indicated. “The reason why both of them split is the issue of leadership and that will still remain if the two come together. Breaking away from the Sena is crucial to MNS’ existence. For Raj to succeed, he will have to be seen as a lone fighter,” political commentator Surendra Jondhale said.
However, the Sena released a statement saying that “a wrong message is being circulated which claims that MNS and Shiv Sena alliance is fighting the elections together. This information is incorrect. Sena is going to fight the elections on its own might.”