As Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis and Shiv Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray continue their slugfest during rallies, Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) chief Raj Thackeray is starting his campaign from today with two rallies in Mumbai.
The MNS chief, who had initially planned to address at least 36 rallies across the state for the civic elections, has now restricted himself to just six in the next five days. Raj would be addressing rallies in Vikhroli and Vile Parle, where he is expected to slam the Sena and the BJP.
After Mumbai, he will be addressing rallies in Diva, Pune and Nasik and conclude it with a grand one at Dadar on February 18, which is the last day for campaigning.
An MNS leader claimed that the party chief delayed his rallies owing to health issues. “Rajsaheb was unwell and so he could not address rallies. Though we are not expecting an outstanding result, we seek to win respectable number of seats,” he added.
The MNS has won 28 seats in the 2012 BMC elections, and came to power in Nashik. However, it has suffered a big blow due to spate of defections across the state.
In the battle for BMC, after the BJP and the Sena decided to go solo, Raj extended an olive branch to his stranged cousin and Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray. However, his offer was rejected.
Moreover, political experts are sceptical about MNS posing any serious threat during BMC polls as they feel that Raj has lost the appeal among the electorate.
“He squandered the mandate he got during the previous elections. Today, he is seen more as an entertainer than a serious politician. People may throng to hear his speeches, but they don’t get converted into votes,” said political analyst Prakash Bal.
The 2017 civic polls is seen as a do-or-die battle for the MNS, as the party has failed to recover from the crushing defeat it suffered during the 2014 Lok Sabha and assembly polls. Another problem plaguing the party is the low morale among its cadre.