Four years after he split from the Shiv Sena, Raj Thackeray has emerged as a formidable force in state politics with his own outfit Maharashtra Navnirman Sena.
Political experts said Raj has staked his own claim to be a successor to his uncle, Shiv Sena chief, Bal Thackeray. The two parted ways when Raj developed differences with his cousin, Uddhav, who now leads the Sena.
Political observers, however, feel that it is time for Raj to focus on economic issues to expand his party’s base so that he remains in the political game for long. The Marathi issue will not help too long, they felt.
“Raj knows the pulse of the people and also knows which issue needs to be raised,” said political commentator, Nilu Damle. “The media ably assist him by keeping him in the limelight.”
Raj thrived on the emotional issue of Marathi manoos in the past four years, said political analyst, Prakash Bal. “Raj started out with the agenda of a progressive state but when he failed in executing that he switched over to the sons of the soil issue,” Bal said.
The Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) opened its ‘political account’ with the 2007 civic elections. The party managed to win only seven seats then. But when Raj made Marathi the focus of his pre-poll campaigns, it served his purpose better.
He went on to win 13 Assembly seats in 2009. He hit the Sena where it hurts most when it won from the Dadar constituency, the Sena’s heartland. The MNS bagged five more seats in Mumbai and ate into the Sena’s votes in many places.
Bal Thackeray, however, felt that emotional issues have a short shelf life. “Raj must think of economic issues if he wants to remain here for a longer time.”
MNS leader, Shirish Parkar, said that the Marathi issue will remain the party’s main agenda though other issues like price rise, farmers’ suicides and unemployment were also being raised.
“It is the media which focuses only on the Marathi issue and in doing so it ignores other important issues,” Parkar said.
A Sena leader requesting anonymity said Sena executive president, Uddhav, has unintentionally contributed a great deal to consolidating Raj’s presence.
“Uddhav is not ready to take any corrective measures,” the Sena leader said. “The MNS has tremendous following among the youth, an area we have failed to work on miserably. We are still banking on old timers and continue to deny fresh faces.”