For the next month or so, Raj Thackeray’s address will be the north-eastern suburb of Dombivli, 50kms away from his Dadar residence.
This is where the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena chief will camp at least until October 31, when the Kalyan-Dombivli Municipal Corporation (KDMC) goes to polls.
Raj will supervise his party’s campaign from Regency Estate at Dawdi Gaon at Dombivli (East). The brief to his four-year-old party is clear - dislodge the ruling Shiv Sena-Bharatiya Janata Party from the seat of power in the municipal body.
Political observers have called Raj’s decision to camp in Dombivli a strategic move. “The MNS cadre will get a major boost seeing its leader in its midst,” senior political commentator Nilu Damle said. Raj has planned this campaign as a rehearsal for the municipal elections for Mumbai and Thane to be held in early 2012, Damle said. “A win or even a good performance will have a major impact on the MNS’s future and will have an ill-effect on the Sena,” he said.
Spread over 137.15km in the Thane region, the Kalyan-Dombivli belt is home to a large number of Maharashtrian families who migrated here after textile mills in Mumbai shut. It has been a stronghold of the saffron parties but the MNS has made significant inroads. It won two of the four Assembly seats from this belt in the 2009 polls. It secured a lead in 37 of 107 municipal constituencies here.
Raj has deputed the party’s second rung leadership to campaign for the polls. “We will definitely win and will spare no efforts to gain power,” said MNS legislator, Bala Nandgaonkar. Although the MNS will take up issues like lack of water and bad roads, the Marathi manoos will be at the centre of its campaign.
The Sena-BJP dismissed the MNS’s claims. “We’ll retain power because we have been pursuing the agenda of development unlike others, who only take up emotional issues,” said BJP legislator Sanjay Kelkar, who is leading the alliance’s campaign. Sena leader, Waman Mhatre, said: “We work for the people while MNS is after publicity and only spreads lies.”