After his attempts to forge an alliance with the Shiv Sena failed, Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) chief Raj Thackeray is all set to start his campaign which will include at least three dozen public rallies across the state.
With the civic polls in Mumbai, Thane, Nashik and Pune being tough for the party, the MNS has only Raj as its star campaigner. He plans to address at least two rallies per day and would focus on these four cities.
According to MNS leader Shirish Sawant, the party is booking small playgrounds and open spaces for these rallies. “Since major playgrounds are not allowed, we are trying to get small playgrounds. We plan to have at least two rallies in the evening time,” said Sawant.
For the MNS, Raj Thackeray is the sole campaigner and candidates look forward to him canvassing for them. Political experts point out that the party was handicapped as Raj has been unable to create a second line of leadership unlike his mentor and uncle Bal Thackeray, founder of Shiv Sena who succeeded in doing so. Leaders who deserted Raj, said a small coterie was running the show and they acted as a barrier between him and the workers.
For the MNS it is a virtual do-or-die battle as the party has been plagued with low morale among the workers as well as large scale defections.
In addition, his estranged cousin Uddhav Thackeray, who heads the Shiv Sena, has declined the olive branch extended by Raj to form an alliance.
On Wednesday, Raj blasted Uddhav saying that his only aim for seeking an alliance was to keep the BJP away from power to protect the interests of the Marathi Manoos. “My only aim was to keep the BJP out of power,” said Raj. “However they (Sena) do not want to quit power both at the state and the Centre. In addition, there is also a monetary angle to it,” he added. “My only aim was to safeguard the interests of the Marathi Manoos,” he added.
He added that Sena wants to usurp the Mayor’s bungalow at Shivaji Park as that has been earmarked for Bal Thackeray’s memorial. “Memorial is just an excuse. The aim is to grab that property,” accused Raj. “They fear that if they go all out against the BJP, then they will not handover the plot to Sena,” he added.
Raj also targeted the BJP-led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Amit Shah of conspiring to separate Mumbai from Maharashtra. He went as far as calling Modi a liar saying “After demonetisation, Modi promised a new India from January this year but this is still to materialize. This man just speaks lies and fools people all the time,” he added.