The Maharashtra Congress has exercised caution in responding to the clarion call given by MNS chief Raj Thackeray to join hands for a Modi-mukt Bharat. While MPCC leaders admit they share a common agenda, any attempt at a covert or overt alliance with the MNS could be detrimental to its north Indian vote bank across India, say political observers.
The Congress leaders believe they are open for an alliance with like-minded secular parties leading with NCP. However, a section within Maharashtra Congress have started debating about the alleged growing nexus between NCP and MNS ahead of the 2019 elections.
On Sunday, MNS president Raj Thackeray fiercely pushed the anti-migrant agenda to reaffirm his politics and commitment to the sons of the soil. “There is a conspiracy to break Mumbai away from Maharashtra,” Raj Thackeray warned at the public rally.
A senior AICC functionary in charge of Maharashtra, requesting anonymity, said, “Modi-mukt Bharat is our agenda. If some regional parties (MNS) are also talking the same language it is good. The Congress is a pan Indian mainstream party which cannot subscribe to regional and narrow partisan politics.” Anti-north Indian politics of MNS cannot be justified by the AICC, said the party functionary.
According to an MPCC general secretary, “In the context of Maharashtra, a Congress-NCP alliance will work provided there is absolute commitment and transparency. We will have to ascertain NCP’s overt alliance with third parties like MNS. Such a move could work against the Congress.”
The closeness between NCP and MNS, in the last one month, has given rise to speculation about growing political nexus between the two parties. Officially, leaders in the NCP and MNS said that the 40-minute meeting between the leaders of the two parties was important as it reflected their identical line to bring all non-BJP groups on a common forum in Maharashtra and the centre.
Political managers said, “The NCP has no political base in Mumbai. It believes that an alliance with MNS would help them make inroads in Mumbai.”
“In 2009, MNS was a political force to reckon with in parts of Mumbai, Thane, Nashik and Pune. MNS, it believes, could play the role of spoilsport against the BJP-Shiv Sena in the coming elections,” they added.
In Mumbai, there are six Lok Sabha seats and 36 assembly seats. In 2014, all the six Lok Sabha seats were won by BJP and Shiv Sena. In the Assembly, the BJP (15) and Shiv Sena (14) got an upper hand.
The remaining seven seats went to Congress (5), Samajwadi Party (1) and MIM (1). The MNS failed to win a single seat in Mumbai. Across Maharashtra it won only one seat. The lone seat was won by Sharad Sonawane in Junnar Assembly constituency in Pune district (western Maharashtra).