Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) chief Raj Thackeray on Saturday announced that he would contest the upcoming Maharashtra Assembly elections and would lead the government if voted to power.
He will become the first person from the Thackeray clan to contest an election. His uncle Bal Thackeray and estranged cousin Uddhav Thackeray have never contested an election.
MNS sources claimed that Thackeray is weighing the options of contesting either from Mahim, which includes Shivaji Park area, where he resides, or Nashik.
“In the upcoming Assembly elections, Raj Thackeray will himself contest the elections. All of us together, if we are able to earn the confidence of the people and they give us the desired mandate, then Raj Thackeray will be at the helm of affairs,” the MNS chief said while addressing a public rally at the Somaiya ground in Sion.
This was Thackeray’s first public interaction after the abject performance of his party in the recently held Lok Sabha elections, where all the 10 party candidates lost their deposit.
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During the rally, Thackeray was supposed to elucidate the party’s future course of action. Thackeray, who seemed to be losing the initiative after the poor performance of his party, seemed to have grabbed the bull by the horns by ending his 25-minute speech with the announcement of his intention to fight elections. Party sources claimed that the intention to contest elections was to infuse enthusiasm within the demoralised cadre.
During his speech, Thackeray also praised Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Taking a swipe at the Shiv Sena, he claimed that it was only because of a single individual that the BJP as well as its allies got the mandate that they did. “All those who were elected in this election managed to do so only because of Narendra Modi’s name. I spoke to some BJP leaders and even they were surprised at how much votes they got,” Thackeray said.
He tried to underplay the success of the Shiv Sena-BJP in the state by claiming that it was the government that lost. “In electoral politics if we see the overall situation, it is not the opposition that wins, it is the government that loses,” Thackeray said.
He claimed that he was not interested in contesting the Lok Sabha elections, but was forced to pay the heed of his partymen. “I was thinking that we should not contest these elections. There were some from my party who were keen. Then the meeting with Nitin Gadkari happened and we decided to fight the elections,” Thackeray said.
Thackeray also severely castigated his party officials, claiming many of them had given up at the campaigning stage itself. He came down severely on party leaders from Nashik where MNS controls the municipal corporation and said they failed to reach out to the people. Interestingly, MNS strongmen and Nashik MLA Vasant Gite was absent from the dais.