Raj (right), who is a bitter rival of Sena chief and Maharashtra chief minister Uddhav Thackeray, has already instructed his leaders to go on an attack spree against the Sena. (Hindustan Times)
Raj (right), who is a bitter rival of Sena chief and Maharashtra chief minister Uddhav Thackeray, has already instructed his leaders to go on an attack spree against the Sena. (Hindustan Times)

Bitter rivalry between estranged cousins Uddhav, Raj Thackeray set to revive ahead of 2022 Mumbai civic polls

The Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) is all geared to attack the Shiv Sena-led state government after it reduced the security of its chief Raj Thackeray
By Naresh Kamath, Mumbai
PUBLISHED ON JAN 17, 2021 11:36 PM IST

The Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) is all geared to attack the Shiv Sena-led state government after it reduced the security of its chief Raj Thackeray.

Ahead of the crucial Mumbai civic elections, Raj, who is a bitter rival of Sena chief and Maharashtra chief minister Uddhav Thackeray, has already instructed his leaders to go on an attack spree against the Sena.

Following the government decision to downsize his security, MNS spokesperson Sandeep Deshpande described it as a case of personal bias. “Uddhav Thackeray is jealous of Raj Thackeray, considering the crowds coming to him at Krishna Kunj (Raj Thackeray’s residence) seeking justice,” said Deshpande. “Uddhav Thackeray is giving security to nobody like Varun Sardesai while purging the security of the tallest leader in this state like Raj Thackeray. This is pure vengeance,” he added.

Varun Sardesai, the nephew of Uddhav Thackeray’s wife Rashmi, is the secretary of the Yuva Sena led by Uddhav’s son Aaditya Thackeray.

The MNS has now formed the MNS Rakshak Pathak which will consist of party men assigned to protect Raj.

The other attack came from lone MNS legislator Raju Patil, who tweeted his complaint to Uddhav in Gujarati. “The Marathi number plates on vehicles are being targeted in Maharashtra. Please look into this matter. The Marathi manoos is looking towards you with hope,” tweeted Patil.

Patil said that considering how the Shiv Sena is wooing the Gujarati community with its campaign — “Mumbai ma jalebi fafda, Uddhav Thackeray aapda”, he hoped his plea would be heard in Gujarati. “Since Uddhav Thackeray has left the Marathi agenda, and [we are] witnessing his newfound love for Gujaratis, I felt it’s better to address him in that language,” said Patil.

The Shiv Sena has defended itself saying it was the decision of the home ministry. “MNS is just making an issue of a non-issue. It is the home ministry’s recommendation after they had analysed the threat perception. Even Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi’s security was pruned but they accepted it gracefully. Even Sharad Pawar offered to voluntarily reduce his security,” said Sena spokesperson Manisha Kayande.

The MNS did not spare Uddhav’s son Aaditya, who is the state tourism minister. MNS spokesperson Deshpande took a jibe at Aaditya by reposting the latter’s tweet in which he invited Tesla, an electric vehicle company to set base in Maharashtra. However, Tesla has chosen Karnataka. Deshpande tweeted, “Tesla company has fled to Karnataka. It is a setback to Page 3 ministers.” The jibe aimed at Aaditya used to be seen in parties earlier.

The friction between Raj and Uddhav aggravated in 2005 when Raj, who was once seen as Sena founder Bal Thackeray’s heir, deserted the saffron outfit following a cold war between them and formed his own party the next year. He squarely blamed Uddhav and his coterie for this desertion, saying he was being marginalised from the party and was being utilised just for campaigning.

MNS faced a setback in his debut elections — the 2007 Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) where MNS secured seven seats. However, this all changed when Raj played up the Marathi Manoos card to the hilt in 2008 with North Indian bashing, blaming them for depriving jobs of the locals. This paid rich dividends in 2009 parliamentary and Assembly polls — severely damaging the Sena. His 2012 BMC poll tally was impressive with 28 seats in his kitty. However, MNS then faded into oblivion as it was almost wiped out in the 2014 and 2018 Assembly polls when Raj was able to secure just one seat in both the elections.

Political analysts point that Raj is bound to be aggressive in the coming days. “Raj has no alternative but to get aggressive for political survival. He will also get indirect support from the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in his mission. The BJP will use him against the Sena,” said political commentator Hemant Desai. The coming Mumbai civic polls will be an opportunity for the MNS and Raj to regain some lost ground. As such, the MNS has now begun getting aggressive on its “sons of the soil agenda”.

The BJP, which is determined to win the Mumbai civic body that the Sena has been ruling for over two decades, would prefer if the MNS eats into the Sena’s Marathi vote bank and damage its chances to retain power in one of Asia’s richest civic bodies, the BMC.

How the Shiv Sena and its chief Uddhav Thackeray’s counter to Raj remains to be seen.

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