The support base of the MNS in Maharashtra has crumbled with the party managing to win only 13 seats in the 10 municipal corporations in the state compared to the 2012 polls when 112 of its corporators were elected. For Raj Thackeray’s party — the most crushing defeat was in Nashik where the MNS had ruled the corporation. Of the 40 seats that it had won in 2012, it managed to win only five seats this time. The MNS had been touting the work it had done in Nashik as a template for the development works that it planned to undertake across Maharashtra.
MNS chief Raj Thackeray had spoken of the work done by him in Nashik in every rally he addressed. However, his efforts in Nashik did not resonate much with the electorate there as the poll verdict showed. “It was a rudderless party. It may have done some work but it failed to mould the public perception in its favour. The laid back attitude of the party leadership also did not help, especially at a time when leaders of other parties, including our Prime Minister and Chief Minister, put so much vigour in campaigning,” said Mukhtar Ahmed, a Nashik-based political analyst.
The MNS also appears to have suffered a similar fate in Mumbai, where its number of corporators slid from from 28 to 7, and from 29 to 2 in Pune. The party won one seat in Pimpri Chinchwad — down from four in 2012. Many believe that the plight of the MNS is largely because of the failure of Raj Thackeray to mobilise his cadre and creating a strong second rung of leaders to take the party forward.
This void had led to large scale dissension in the party over the years. The fact that Thackeray, due to family contingencies, started his election campaign late and kept it extremely short also seemed to lead to disillusionment among his supporters. Unlike his rivals like Uddhav Thackeray and Devendra Fadnavis who addressed over 30 political rallies, Raj addressed just six meetings.
“This is the mandate of the public and we respect it. We will introspect,” said a senior MNS leader. Many, however, question whether the party leadership is introspecting over the setbacks that it suffers. “People should not be telling me how I run my party,” is the common refrain of Raj Thackeray when questioned on his management style within the MNS.
Political observers believe that the party has become redundant in the present scheme of things. “In politics, you can’t rule out anyone. However, I am forced to say that in the present scheme of things and the way he is running his party, Raj Thackeray is a spent force,” said Dr Surendra Jondhale, a political observer and Professor of Political Science at Mumbai University.