After Bollywood's superstars like Salman Khan, Mahesh Bhatt and Mukesh Bhatt supported Karan Johar's upcoming film Ae Dil Hai Mushkil that cast Pakistani actor Fawad Khan, the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) threatened multiplexes that they would take to vandalism if the said multiplexes screened Karan Johar's movie.
Following that, Karan Johar came forward and assured that in the future he will not cast Pakistani artistes in his movie, but that this time his movie should be screened in multiplexes. However, MNS leader Amey Khopkar was firm on his stand that they (MNS) will oppose the movie in Mumbai and Maharashtra.
The new twist in the story is how former Indian cricketer-turned-commentator Sanjay Manjrekar jumped into the controversy and attacked MNS for carrying out their threats.
Manjrekar is known for his straight drives on the cricket pitch. But this time around, he directed his straight drives at MNS via tweets.
"One MLA party, MNS, not learning their lessons. With threats of vandalism etc they are certain to be a zero MLA party next elections," Manjrekar tweeted.
One MLA party, MNS, not learning their lessons. With threats of vandalism etc they are certain to be a zero MLA party next elections.
— Sanjay Manjrekar (@sanjaymanjrekar) October 18, 2016
If Raj Thackeray's party continues to threaten people and organisations, then no MLA will be elected from his party, Manjrekar said.
But Manjrekar couldn't be far from the truth. Last month, MNS' lone MLA from Junnar, Sharad Sonawane formed a new local outfit called Aapla Manus, Aapli Aaghadi (Your Men, Your support). Talking to the media, Sonawane claimed that he did not resign from the party, but that the new party is looking at the civic body elections instead. Interesting things will come about in the next four months in the upcoming Pune and Pimpri-Chinchwad BMC election.
Sources close to Sonawane told Firstpost that he is not attending party functions and is distancing himself from MNS. Sonawane is concentrating more on civic elections with Aapla Manus, Aapli Aaghadi. In the last three months, political observers said that he has gotten close to the BJP, especially to CM Devendra Fadnavis.
Sonawane is also not happy within the party. In 2009, MNS had 13 MLAs, but the numbers drastically reduced to only one in the 2014 assembly election. Earlier, the sitting MLAs Ram Kadam, Pravin Darekar and Vasant Gite changed their guard and joined the BJP. In 2014, Ram Kadam was elected from Ghatkopar whereas Darekar lost his Magathane, Boriwali seat. Six months ago, BJP fielded Darekar as an MLC in the Upper House.
Meanwhile, the MNS has started its downfall in Mumbai, Thane, Pune and Nashik. In Nashik, 40 MNS corporators were elected in 2012, but now more than 20 corporators have switched over to either Shiv Sena, BJP or the NCP. The sitting mayor Ashok Murtadak is also unhappy with party leaders.
The same thing is happening in the BMC. There were 28 corporators in Mumbai, but more than 10 corporators joined Shiv Sena recently. The outgoings from the party is continuing in Pune and Thane as well. So fractions of the corporators are unhappy with party leaders and functionaries run by Raj Thackeray.
After Sonawane formed his own party, Raj Thackeray may just be short of one MLA. The 44-year-old Sonawane is originally a Shivsainik. He was district vice-president in the Shiv Sena, but denied the ticket from Sena and joined the MNS in 2014. Within two years he has developed a very good rapport with the BJP.
Talking to Firstpost on the condition of anonymity, an MNS leader said that Sonawane is "still our MLA. He has not resigned yet. It's all media speculation of MNS' downfall. We will show our agenda after Diwali".
MNS leader Avinash Abhyankar lashed out Manjrekar's tweets calling them a publicity stunt. "He himself knows what scores he got in matches. It's not an MNS issue but patriotism. When our jawans stand on the border, he played on the cricket pitch. No need for such foolish advice to MNS," Abhyankar said to Firstpost.