On the eve of the Mumbai civic polls, as parties factored in the possibility of a fractured mandate, the question triggering debates on the streets was: Will the warring Thackerays move towards each other for power?
A possible reconciliation between Shiv Sena chief Bal Thackeray and his rebel nephew, Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) chief Raj Thackeray, dominated the buzz.
Senior Thackeray’s diluted attack on his nephew during the campaign has led to talk that the ageing tiger is looking at support from Raj in case the Sena-BJP combine fails to get a majority and the MNS emerges kingmaker.
After senior Thackeray elevated his son Uddhav as clear number two in the Sena, Raj — who had once been groomed as possible heir — quit the party six years ago and floated the MNS.
Raj took the hardline, unlike his cousin who wanted the Sena to be an all-inclusive party.
His violent version of ‘sons of the soil’ campaign, targeting north Indians, led to the Sena’s defeat in Mumbai-Pune belt in the 2009 assembly elections and helped the Congress retain power in the state.
The MNS won more assembly seats than Sena in Mumbai and is now hoping to repeat the performance in the municipal corporation polls.
Despite political attacks on each other at their respective political rallies on Monday, uncle and nephew admitted to the affinity towards each other in their speeches.
While the Sena chief said his doors were always open for Raj, the latter said he was willing to take a hundred steps for his uncle, minus his cousin Uddhav, the Sena’s executive president who was running the show.
“If there is no clear majority with the Shiv Sena-BJP-RPI alliance or the Congress-NCP combine, then the role of the MNS will be crucial. There is a possibility that the MNS will join hands with the former, with the BJP playing a crucial role in getting Raj into supporting the alliance,” said political analyst B Venkatesh Kumar.