Maharashtra Navnirman Sena founder and head Raj Thackeray visiting his ailing cousin Uddhav Thackeray at hospital yesterday, and consequently meeting his uncle, Shiv Sena supremo Balasaheb Thackeray makes for an interesting future in Maharashtra politics.
The last assembly elections in Maharashtra were held in 2009 – and saw Raj Thackeray’s MNS making a significant dent in a number of constituencies – with the Shiv Sena-BJP combine being the loser, and the Congress – the party which currently rules the state – and the prime beneficiary of MNS’ eating into the anti-Congress vote share.
“If one were to add the votes polled by the Sena-BJP alliance and the MNS in five seats in Mumbai (except Priya Dutt's whose victory in Mumbai North Central with 319,352 votes polled were far higher than the BJP-Sena's Mahesh Jethmalani's 144,797 votes and the MNS's Shilpa Sarpotdar's 132,555 votes added together), Pune, Nashik, Bhiwandi and Thane then their tally far exceeded the tally of the victorious candidates from the Congress-Nationalist Congress Party combine. There is now a spring in the step of MNS cadres who credit party supremo Raj Thackeray for bagging a four per cent vote share in the state and a whopping 21 per cent vote share in Mumbai,” reported rediff .
In the last BMC elections, the Shiv Sena was the largest party with 75 seats, the Congress following with 50 and the MNS with a respectable haul of 28 seats. Sharad Pawar’s NCP, it must be noted, won only 14 seats.
Currently, thanks to the maths of the assembly (where there are 227 seats), the Sena is not in a position to push through legislation without the help of, sometimes, the MNS and the assembly witnesses regular tussles between the two.
So why is the prospect of, first a thaw, and then, a deeper relationship between the Shiv Sena and the MNS more real today?
Perhaps it’s the developments in politics across the country since 2009, which has seen the emergence of the regional parties as significant players in national issues, thanks to the fact that the UPA, has, at best been a shaky and divided coalition, forever needing the support of even parties outside of the formal UPA constituents to get legislation passed.
We’ve seen the TMC, the AIADMK, the SP, the BJD and the BSP flexing their muscles when opportunities have arisen, squeezing out their pound of flesh. UP got the centre to agree to a Rs 45,000 crore package – even as their support for the UPA and the Congress is a result of a newly found love.
It’s this largesse that the Shiv Sena and the MNS have been unable to gain for themselves. Divided, they’ve failed to get the numbers required to be in a position to arm-twist the centre. United, as is proven by the 2009 election data, they very well might.
The voting patterns of the past two general elections clearly point to an absolute majority for the Congress or the BJP being impossible; a coalition at the centre in 2014 (or earlier, if the Congress opts for a mid-term poll) is a reality.
If the MNS continues to eat into the Shiv Sena vote, the result might be both a weaker Shiv Sena and a weaker MNS, making their singular and joint voices even more feeble.
That’s the writing on the wall – and the visit to the hospital by Raj Thackeray may be an acknowledgement of that reality.
A combined Shiv-Sena MNS? That’s a tantalizing thought – one that could give Congress and BJP think-tanks plenty to think about.