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AFTER a surprise electoral leap in the 2012 civic polls, the Raj Thackeray-led Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) faces the tough task of repeating its performance in the 2017 election of the Pune Municipal Corporation (PMC), as its corporators seem to be in a mood to leave the party in search of better options, citing the “decline” in its popularity.
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In the 2012 PMC elections, the MNS had surprised everyone by winning 29 seats in the civic body and emerging as the second largest party, ahead of the Congress, the BJP and the Shiv Sena. In the first ever PMC election it had ever contested, in 2007, the MNS had won eight seats.
Because of its increased strength in the PMC, the party had got the post of the leader of opposition, but lost it later after the Congress managed to increase its tally by winning the by-polls in a few seats.
The MNS’s downfall began after its poor performance in the Lok Sabha and assembly elections. The party was banking on its impressive performance in the 2012 civic polls to help its candidates in the Lok Sabha and assembly elections from Pune, but failed to win any seats. In the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, the party won only one assembly seat in the entire state.
The performance of its corporators in the PMC also affected the party’s image. This had prompted MNS chief Raj Thackeray to warn the corporators not to get “carried away”, and to focus on civic issues. The party also changed its leader in the PMC several times, to retain its aggressiveness in the civic body and take on the ruling NCP.
Thackeray, apparently realising the current state of the party in the city, recently addressed a rally of party workers in a bid to gear them up for the civic polls. “I am not bothered about those leaving the party and joining other parties. This is common during election period. Those leaving the MNS to join other parties are not trustworthy as they frequently change parties,” Thackeray had said, criticising those elected representatives who were planning to leave MNS.
He had also urged MNS corporators to focus only on development, and generate confidence among citizens by addressing the civic needs of voters.
The party’s candidates have been urged to work hard to reach out to voters and inform them about the “good work done by MNS corporators” in the last five years. The Pune unit of the MNS has been asked to “aggressively highlight the failure of the NCP in improving the condition of the city and the failure of the BJP-Shiv Sena alliance in resolving the many city-related issues pending with the state and the Union government”.
“The NCP and the BJP have been blaming each other for their failure to develop civic infrastructure. The problems of the city continue as those in power in Pune and in Maharashtra are engaged in mud-slinging. We are going to reach out to voters and urge them not to trust these leaders any more,” said a MNS leader.