In a rare show of dissent for a personality-based party, some defiant leaders of the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) on Thursday covertly blamed party chief Raj Thackeray for its disastrous performance in the recent civic polls.
During a review meeting to take stock of party’s falling electoral fortunes, they wanted the MNS to dilute its sons of the soil agenda, which was turned down by Thackeray.
This is the first time since the launch of the party in 2006 that Thackeray had to face the ire of his leaders. Speculation is rife that more leaders may quit if the party doesn’t show any signs of revival. Top MNS leaders such as Pravin Darekar, Ram Kadam, Ramesh Patil and Vasant Gite, all former legislators, had switched to the Bharatiya Janata Party.
According to a source, the altercation started when Thackeray chastised his leaders for failing to take his message to the masses. This infuriated many, who said it was the MNS leadership who failed to provide any direction to his workers, which created confusion, said the source. They also tried to convince Thackeray that the party needed to woo other communities, considering the changing demographics.
Thackeray, however, refused to dilute his Marathi Manoos agenda. “You should have done more hard work,” he told the party top brass.
The MNS refused to comment on the episode. “It was an internal party meeting and I am not supposed to disclose anything of what had happened there,” said MNS leader Bala Nandgaonkar.
To rebuild the party, Thackeray assured workers that he would extensively tour the state. He also said he would punish defecators.
In the first few years of its launch, the party created an instant impact in state politics.
In 2009, it spoiled political calculations of the BJP-Shiv Sena combine to wrest power from the Congress and Nationalist Congress Party.
However, inconsistency in raising various issues and a weak organisational structure affected the party’s performance later.
The party has just seven corporators in the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation against a respectable 28 in the previous term. In the Assembly, Sharad Sonavane is the only MNS legislator compared to 13 in 2009. In the Nashik Municipal Corporation, where the MNS had held power, it now has a measly three.