RIP MNS? With just one win in Maharashtra, this could be the end for Raj Thackeray

Once seen as a potential successor, then seen as the head of a party that would destroy the Shiv Sena, Raj Thackeray and the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena have effectively been relegated to the scrap heap of Maharashtra politics after the state elections.

The party has won just one seat out of 288 constituencies in Maharashtra and has seen its vote share fall to just 3 percent in the state as per the results declared by the Election Commission.

Coming after the 2009 elections, it's a significant fall for the party that has banked on the charisma of its party chief a little too much and failed to see the signs that its relevance had faded over the last five years.

Founded in March 2006 after he broke away from the Shiv Sena, the MNS contested its first elections in 2009 a year after Raj Thackeray's vitriolic campaign against migrants and about retaining jobs for Maharashtrians in the state. After playing spoiler for the BJP-Shiv Sena alliance in the 2009 Lok Sabha elections, the party then went on to make a splash in its first state elections.

It won 13 seats in the Assembly elections, polling 11.88 percent of the votes in all the 143 seats that the party contested.

 RIP MNS? With just one win in Maharashtra, this could be the end for Raj Thackeray

Can Thackeray revive his fortunes? AFP image

In Mumbai, the MNS got around 24 percent of the city's votes, far ahead of the Shiv Sena and emerged as the second largest party in Mumbai with six seats.

It ensured the defeat of Sena-BJP candidates in 11 of the 36 constituencies in Mumbai and prevented the alliance from winning 26 of the 36 seats in the Mumbai, Thane region.

The party also ate into the BJP-Shiv Sena alliance by splitting the votes during the 2009 Lok Sabha elections.

However, after the success of the party in the 2009 elections, little changed.

Raj Thackeray's agenda for the 'Marathi manoos' remained much the same but failed to adequately factor in the change in dynamics thanks to anti-incumbency against the Congress-NCP alliance and the fact that the goalposts had slowly shifted thanks to the rise of someone named Narendra Modi.

The splitting of the alliances meant that the MNS was no longer only contesting against the Shiv Sena in seats but every other party in the state, and only the 'Marathi manoos' agenda wasn't enough to cut it.

"The party is directionless as it has neither any ideology nor an agenda...The party should be constantly reinventing and the Marathi platform does not appeal to the youth any longer," Venkatesh Kumar, professor, Tata Institute of Social Sciences had noted.

It didn't help that Thackeray's stance on the BJP seemed ambiguous at best.

After a meeting with BJP's senior leader Nitin Gadkari, Thackeray supported Modi's bid for Prime Ministership and contested only against Shiv Sena candidates across the state. It failed. The MNS was the only major political party to get less votes than it did even in 2009.

Soon after the results, Thackeray switched tack saying that he didn't believe Modi was only working for the benefit of Gujarat.

“I was the first person to support him for his prime ministerial bid. I had thought he would change after becoming the PM, but he is not willing to talk of anything else but Gujarat. I still appreciate him for the work done in Gujarat, but what kind of message is he sending to the world?” Thackeray was quoted as saying in a report.

Breaking away from the tradition of the Thackerays, the MNS chief declared he would contest the Assembly elections, but then quickly changed his mind and then said he wouldn't do so.

“The entire state of Maharashtra is my constituency and I do not want to limit myself to just one constituency,” Raj told reporters after cousin and Shiv Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray failed to rise to his bait.

The fact that the elections were contested largely on the factors of anti-incumbency, fighting corruption, providing development and Modi, Thackeray had no real agenda to present to the voters of Maharashtra. His charisma continued to draw crowds to his rallies but the lack of organisational structure and lack of credible agenda is seen to have crippled the party's chances of even holding on to the seats that it won in 2009.

What's worse for Thackeray is the fact that even his party leaders had already decided that there was only one person to blame if the party performed poorly during the elections: the MNS chief.

"We should have hit the campaign trail immediately after the Lok Sabha polls and we should gone to the people with a development plan early," an MNS leader was quoted as saying in a Economic Times report.

With just one seat in the Maharashtra Assembly, Thackeray has been left with no voice or heft in state politics and instead of worrying about damaging his cousin's political career will need to plot his resurrection, or prepare for the end of his political career, over the next five years.

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Updated Date: Oct 21, 2014 12:09:06 IST