Considered as a bid to woo Muslim voters, an office of the Raj Thackeray-led Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) was inaugurated at Dongri on Tuesday.
Despite its several attempts, Shiv Sena, perceived to be the archrival of the MNS, has failed in setting up its office in the region. Sharif Deshmukh, MNS leader who was instrumental in setting up the office, said: “The Muslims, especially the youth, are disillusioned with the Congress. Hence, they are turning to us,” said Deshmukh.
“MNS is not a communal party like the Shiv Sena. They come forward to help us during our problems,” said Suleman Khatri, one of the leaders of the Khatri community.
Ever since the formation of the MNS in 2006, Raj Thackeray has tried hard to win over the Muslim votes. A case in point could be the inclusion of a green band, representing the Muslims, in his party flag.
Besides, Hazi Arafat Shaikh is the vice president of the party. Earlier, the MNS had also led a march outside the Haj House demanding better facility for Muslim pilgrims.
Meanwhile, despite their presence across the city, Shiv Sena has failed in setting up offices in Muslim-dominated areas such as Umerkhadi, Bhendi Bazar, Nagpada, Pydhonie, Madanpura and Dongri owing to its anti-Muslim stance.
From 1996-98, Salim Badgujar, head of the Sena Muslim cell and Khalid Bakerywala, Dongri unit chief, were gunned down by the Chhota Shakeel gang for their association with the saffron outfit. “This incident instilled fear in the minds of the locals,” said a local Sena leader on condition of anonymity.
Political observers say Raj is keen on projecting that he is different from the Shiv Sena.
“From day one, Raj has been talking about working towards the betterment of the Dalits and Muslims. He is practising what he has preached,” said Nilu Damle, a political commentator.