Can tried-and-trusted violent ways help Raj Thackeray’s MNS win?
In his first rally, he claimed he didn’t stand for parochial or identity politics. But after winning only seven seats in the civic polls a year later, Thackeray, almost immediately, took everyone by surprise and provoked the cadre to beat up migrants. In the 2009 polls next year, the party reaped its benefitsmumbai Updated: Mar 11, 2016 13:38 IST
Many may question Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) chief Raj Thackeray’s decision to go back to violent agitations against autorickshaw drivers in the city. The answer is simple – over the past 10 years since the formation of his party, Thackeray has always resorted to violence as a tool of political mobilisation to make quick gains, whenever threatened by impending electoral debacles.
In his first rally, he claimed he didn’t stand for parochial or identity politics. But after winning only seven seats in the civic polls a year later, Thackeray, almost immediately, took everyone by surprise and provoked the cadre to beat up migrants. In the 2009 polls next year, the party reaped its benefits.
In 2014, he changed track and spoke of a development blueprint, but didn’t do much to popularise it. After the crushing defeats, Thackeray, eyeing the 2017 civic polls, has fallen back on what worked for him -- violence against the “outsider”.
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For Thackeray, the 2017 civic polls are a make or break. His party may get disintegrated if he doesn’t get his act together. With all signs of the BJP and the Sena fighting separately, an insider said, Thackeray probably believes the space for another development-oriented party is small. “This will at least set us apart from the remaining parties,” said a leader.
What Thackeray has failed to gauge is Mumbai of 2016 is different from 2008-09. Back then, Thackeray and the MNS were seeking their first chance at power. The violence helped in gaining attention, but on the condition that Thackeray performed. The performance of his party’s MLAs and corporators, however, has been dismal. “This time, when people look at his violent agitation, they will do so, remembering the poor performance of his partymen. They won’t be as kind as they were in 2009,” said a former MNS leader.
There is unease in some quarters in the party too. Some leaders insist Thackeray’s statement will take the party back to its militant image, which it is trying to shed, while some said many in the party would be ready to buy into Thackeray’s call for violence because of the Thackeray’s flip-flops. “Many of us had police cases slapped on us because of violent agitations, but seldom did the party leadership offer assistance. The top brass called off the agitations mysteriously and moved on, while we were left to fight our own battles. In Mumbai, not many workers want police cases against them,” said an MNS functionary.