Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) chief Raj Thackeray’s tactical move to field candidates against the Shiv Sena on one hand and extend support to BJP’s prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi on the other seems to have worked against its own candidates in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections.
In 2009, the MNS polled 4.6% of the total votes. But party insiders say it’s unlikely to retain its vote percentage or win any of the seats, going by the poor response its candidates received at the polling booths.
“Our candidates are unlikely to make it to the winning pole as consolidation of Marathi and Gujarati votes in our favour has not taken place in Mumbai. None of the three contenders in the city have enjoyed the absolute support from Marthai and Gujarati voters,” top MNS sources said.
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The MNS, which has fielded nine candidates besides extending support to two candidates fielded by Peasant and Workers Party, was banking on the Modi “wave” to boost the electoral prospects of its candidates in Mumbai and adjoining Bhiwandi, Thane and Kalyan-Dombivali.
According to senior BJP leader Gopinath Munde, “Unlike 2009, response to MNS from voters in Mumbai was lukewarm. Although MNS has a following, it was not strong enough to make a dent against candidates fielded by BJP-led alliance.”
Munde, who had sought the MNS help in his own Lok Sabha constituency of Beed, said, “In Beed, I sought MNS support as they had not fielded any candidate. But I do not see MNS defeating any of our alliance candidates in Mumbai or elsewhere.”
MNS has fielded three candidates in Mumbai — Bala Nandgaonkar (Mumbai South), director-actor Mahesh Manjrekar (Mumbai North West) and Aditya Shirodkar (Mumbai South Central). Others are Raju Patil (Kalyan-Dombivili), Pradeep Pawar (Nashik), Deepak Paigude (Pune), Suresh Mhatre (Bhiwandi) and Abhijit Panse (Thane).
In all the three constituencies MNS fought in Mumbai, the battle has turned out to be between Congress and Shiv Sena. The MNS, which had polled more than a lakh votes in each of the LS seat it contested in 2009, appears to have failed to corner Marathi votes this time.
Political managers from across Sena, MNS and BJP said the vertical split within the Marathi voters that constitute 26-30 per cent of the electorate in Mumbai had not taken place this time around. The Marathi voters appear to have voted decisively for the Shiv Sena, they said.
“The Marathi voters have taken caution not to allow the split in their votes. Moreover, they have decided to vote for Modi,” Sena president Uddhav Thackeray said.
BJP prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi’s rally in Mumbai on April 21 also appears to have worked in Sena’s favour. At the rally, Modi had talked about absence of late Bal Thackeray but skipped any mention of the MNS.
“This is the first elections without Bal Thackeray. When he was alive, we could rely on him and had nothing to worry. Now, we have to shoulder greater responsibility in his absence to lead the grand alliance to victory,” Modi had said.