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In face of Modi, the big gun, Sena cousins declare ceasefire

The BJP’s decision to go it alone in the state has forced Uddhav and Raj to redraw their poll plans.

Written by Shubhangi Khapre | Mumbai |
Updated: October 8, 2014 11:22:12 am

Estranged Thackeray cousins, Uddhav and Raj, have set aside their mutual bitterness to present a united front against the Modi-inspired BJP in Maharashtra’s October 15 elections. The tactical shift within Shiv Sena and MNS aims to send a message to the cadre that their political survival in the state may be under threat because of the likely high tide of a Modi wave.

The BJP’s decision to go it alone in the state has forced Uddhav and Raj to redraw their poll plans but the leaders have stopped short of declaring an alliance.

Political analyst Suresh Jondhale told The Indian Express that there is no question of an alliance at this moment.

“But one cannot rule out a post-poll alliance where Sena and MNS will work together… today they are both attacking Modi to prepare a common agenda,” he said.

The Sena — which has high stakes in almost 120 seats across Mumbai, Thane, Nashik, Pune, Amravati, Akola, Buldhana, Aurangabad, Parbhani, Raigad and Sindhudurg-Ratnagiri — is afraid of BJP making a dent in these support areas. Similarly, the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena, which also draws its strength from Mumbai, Kalyan-Dombivali, Thane, Nashik and Pune, wants to safeguard its turf.

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“We will give a befitting reply to those trying to undermine the state. And we have always welcomed anybody working for our people,” Uddhav told a rally last week.

Raj Thackeray told The Indian Express : “I will work with all those who are willing to safeguard the rights of Maharashtra and Mumbai.”

“MNS is not the real rival. Our main rival is Modi. If BJP spreads its tentacles across Maharashtra, it threatens the political dominance of Sena in the state,” said a senior Shiv Sena leader.

It is learnt that after the Sena-BJP split late last month, Uddhav took the initiative to call Raj. Political managers in Sena now warn that “Uddhav Thackeray’s campaign against Modi will further intensify”.

In 2009, Shiv Sena won 45 seats of 169 it had contested. The MNS won 13 seats. In Lok Sabha elections, all of MNS’s 10 candidates lost badly, with a mere 0.13 per cent of votes. This was a massive decline from 4.6 per cent votes it polled in 2009 assembly elections.

The primary concern for Raj Thackeray is to ensure that the tally of 13 MLAs is retained. And he reckons that Modi’s surge, if it works, would make the this goal hard to achieve. “I can clearly see Modi’s gameplan is to wipe out regional parties” he had told The Indian Express.

If MNS is concerned, Sena has good reason to be spooked. This is the first state election after the death of Bal Thackeray. Although Sena is playing Bal Thackeray’s last emotive appeal to people to vote for the party he founded, it is not perhaps making the desired impact.

However, both Uddhav and Raj are amply speaking of Thackeray’s contribution to Maharashtra to counter Modi and portraying the latter as an outsider who has little stake in the state’s asmita.

State BJP spokesman Madhav Bhandari said, “If we look at the campaign, it is clear that Shiv Sena and MNS are working together and targeting BJP and Narendra Modi. They can see their defeat.”

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