Raj Thackeray to visit Ayodhya Ram Mandir in March; Shiv Sena takes a veiled dig
- After the formation of Uddhav Thackeray led Maha Vikas Aghadi government, Raj Thackeray appears to be moving closer to the BJP, said a political analyst.
Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) chief Raj Thackeray will visit the Ram Mandir in Ayodhya in March, according to a senior party leader. The decision was taken in a party meeting held at Bandra in Mumbai.
“Rajsaheb will visit Ayodhya between March 1 and 9 to seek the blessings of Lord Ram. He will also visit the Hanuman temple there. He will be accompanied by his party colleagues,” announced senior MNS leader Bala Nandgaonkar.
Political analyst Hemant Desai said that Raj Thackeray was aiming to project himself as a Hindutva icon with an eye on ascendency in Maharashtra politics.
“Raj wants to fashion himself as a Hindutva leader and become close to the BJP. Since the current Shiv Sena no longer advocates a stringent Hindutva line like its founder Bal Thackeray, Raj wants to fill that vacuum,” Desai reasoned.
After the 2019 Maharashtra assembly elections, when Raj’s party could only win one seat while his rival and cousin, Shiv Sena president Uddhav Thackeray outmanoeuvred the BJP to become the chief minister of Maharashtra, Raj Thackeray was seen to be warming up to the BJP with a more pronounced pro-Hindutva line.
A year ago, he unveiled a saffron flag for his party and later raised the issue of reopening of temples when the restrictions imposed to contain Covid-19 pandemic were being lifted gradually.
“Even BJP would like to have Raj at their side as he can split Shiv Sena votes and benefit them,” Desai argued further while pointing out that even on the issue of farmers' agitation against the three Central farm laws, Raj did not criticise the BJP.
The Shiv Sena was quick to taunt Raj Thackeray, saying the party-- once seen as Maharashtra’s original Hindutva outfit-- was ready to guide his visit to Ayodhya.
“If Raj Thackeray feels like going to Ayodhya, he should do so. We will guide him,” said Shiv Sena MP Sanjay Raut.
After he floated the MNS in 2006, Raj Thackeray pursued an aggressive and violent agenda guided by regionalism and sons of the soil policy.
He launched a violent campaign against north Indians, accusing them of “stealing” jobs meant for the locals. His party men resorted to physical attacks on north Indians youth appearing for railway recruitment examinations and also migrant labourers in Mumbai and in other parts of the state.
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The campaign seemed to pay off initially as the MNS won 13 seats in the 2009 assembly elections, however, the appeal soon wore off with the party getting reduced to just one assembly seat after 2014 polls.
In the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, he campaigned against the BJP with bitter criticism of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. However, that did not turn his political fortunes. For a year now, after the formation of Uddhav Thackeray led Maha Vikas Aghadi government, he appears to be moving closer to the BJP.
BJP leaders have said in the past that they are open to an alliance with the MNS provided Raj gives up his opposition to north Indians.