Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) president Raj Thackeray Thursday held a meeting with Peasants and Workers Party (PWP) leader Jayant Patil and Jan Surajya Shakti’s (JSS) Vinay Kore, giving the first sign he would field candidates in the Lok Sabha elections. The PWP has four MLAs and a sizeable following in Raigad district. The JSS has two MLAs and wields influence in certain pockets of Western Maharashtra.
Apurva Hiray, an MLC from Nashik Division Teachers’ Constituency, also accompanied Patil and Kore. The Hiray family has considerable pull in Nashik’s Malegaon district. “If we do come together, we can give a viable alternate to the people. Today, we just held a primary meeting to contemplate this possibility,” Kore said after the meeting.
The Shiv Sena’s adamant posture against the MNS in the BJP-led ‘mahauti’ (grand alliance) has forced the MNS to hunt for new partners. Both PWP and JSS are disenchanted with both the ruling Congress-NCP alliance and the BJP-led opposition.
MNS leader Bala Nandgaonkar told The Indian Express, “MNS is a political party and there is no question of not fielding any candidate. But a formal decision will be announced by Rajsaheb on March 9.” However, MNS leaders, in private, said the party has already shortlisted 18 constituencies across the state, including six in Mumbai and two each in Thane/Kalyan, Nashik and Pune.
MNS political managers said the talks are at a nascent stage. “But we are serious of forming a third front minus Congress-NCP and Sena-BJP,” said an MNS leader. Thackeray’s initiative to look for poll partners comes 24 hours after Shiv Sena and BJP declared there was no question of any alliance with the MNS. The Sena’s rejection of any alliance with the MNS has upset Thackeray, sources said.
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“In 2009 polls, the MNS did not win a single seat but polled over one lakh votes in every constituency in urban seats,” said an MNS leader. The party also refuted the charge of non-preparedness and non-availability of good candidates to field in the polls.