With the Shiv Sena leading in 18 of the 21 seats it contested, its chief Uddhav Thackeray will, for now, have the last laugh. The poll results have made his estranged cousin and the MNS leader, Raj Thackeray, irrelevant.
Raj, on his part, had taken the challenge to the Sena’s door by attacking it and its leader in its strongholds — fielding candidates against Sena candidates, and even referring to Uddhav as a ‘political novice’.
But with a 86% strike rate in this elections, Uddhav, who has been criticised for his CEO-style functioning and mild mannerisms, has proved his mettle. A Modi wave coupled with a strong army of backroom boys, a son who is being cultivated as a youth leader — things seem to be peaking for Uddhav.
Uddhav can rightfully stake claim to a share of the poll credit as it is the first LS elections the Sena fought after the demise of its chief Bal Thackeray. With the clear mandate, the Sena may be offered few ministries in the Modi cabinet and Uddhav has started preparing for the real test, the assembly elections, scheduled for 2014-end.
The poll season had, in fact, set a few challenges for Uddhav — prior to the polls, four of its sitting MPs moved to other parties; he brought in new faces. Raj pitched MNS candidates in important seats against the Sena but the Sena still won with margins over 50,000 in places like Mumbai South and South Central where there was a possibility of a 2009 repeat where MNS ate into their vote share.
In a place like Mumbai South Central where there was a dominant MNS voter base, Sena candidate Rahul Shewale won with a 137,000 margin against veteran Congress MP Eknath Gaikwad.
MNS has not even managed to come second in any of the 10 seats it contested. It has not even been able to get a 100,000 vote tally in any of the seats.