Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) chief Raj Thackeray has backed BJP prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi even as he went against the saffron party’s wishes and announced he would be contesting the Lok Sabha elections.
Releasing a first list of seven names, Raj, 45, fielded candidates against the Shiv Sena in six seats and against the BJP in one. Despite his support of Modi, MNS chief is likely to do more damage than good to the prospects of the NDA candidates by splitting the anti-Congress votes. At a recent meeting, former BJP president Nitin Gadkari had requested the MNS chief not to field candidates against the NDA to avoid division of votes. Gadkari’s overture to Raj had not gone down well with Sena chief Uddav Thackeray.
The MNS contested 12 seats in the 2009 general elections, winning none but polling over a lakh votes in nine constituencies in the Mumbai-Pune-Nashik belt. These are the same areas the MNS is contesting this time and where the Sena-BJP combine is hoping to win a few seats. In that election, the saffron combine did not win a single seat in Mumbai, and even lost Thane, Kalyan and Nashik due to a division of votes caused by the MNS.
The MNS has declared Deepak Paigude as its candidate from Pune.Raj’s focus on Pune has several political overtones. It is clearly seen that the party is going to target Shiv Sena in Lok Sabha elections. However the fun part is it will also focus on constituencies where BJP leader Gopinath Munde’s supporters will be contesting.In the seat-sharing formula between BJP and Shiv Sena, the Pune Lok Sabha constituency has gone to the BJP. But the city unit of BJP is divided into Nitin Gadkari and Gopinath Munde factions. Gadkari was trying to expand the BJP-Sena alliance by bring MNS in. But Uddhav Thackeray did not like it. Raj didn’t get a positive response from Munde either. While Gadkari is close to Raj Thackeray, Munde and Uddhav have developed a rapport after Bal Thackeray’s demise. Now the MNS has decided to put every possible effort to bring down Shiv Sena’s tally in Lok Sabha polls and also to corner Gopinath Munde by contesting against his candidates.
In Pune, Munde insists that city president Anil Shirole, who is also one of his close confidants, should get the Lok Sabha nomination. However, Nitin Gadkari has supported MLA Girish Bapat’s claim. It is likely that Munde’s choice will stay hence the MNS has decided to field its candidate here to stop Munde’s power from increasing. Also Raj is working on getting support from the other regional parties like the JSS and the PWP to try to create a third front situation in Maharashtra.