Is Raj Thackeray's right-hand man set to join Shiv Sena?

Sources in the MNS say Raj’s Man Friday, Bala Nandgaonkar, plans to leave the party for the Shiv Sena, following an alleged snub by the party chief; the leader, who had free access to Raj’s house, was reportedly told to get an appointment before meeting him there

His party has been facing an identity crisis following its recent poll drubbing and his followers have been jumping ship, but Raj Thackeray may soon find that the unkindest cut is yet to be inflicted on him.

Nandgaonkar had reportedly been trying to get Raj and Uddhav Thackeray to patch-up, but that plan had not worked out. File pic
Nandgaonkar had reportedly been trying to get Raj and Uddhav Thackeray to patch-up, but that plan had not worked out. File pic

Trusted sources have told mid-day that Raj’s Man Friday, Bala Nandgaonkar, who has been with the MNS ever since it was founded, is contemplating leaving his side for none other than his cousin and arch-rival, Uddhav Thackeray. The sources say Nandgaonkar is planning the Shiv Sena move following a snub from Raj.

The former MLA, who was known to have free access to the party chief’s house at all times, was allegedly advised recently to seek an appointment before meeting him there. Nandgaonkar has, however, categorically denied that he is planning to switch parties.

Leaders in the MNS claim that Nandgaonkar has not been going to Rajgarh, the MNS office in Dadar, for nearly a fortnight now and he has also stopped visiting Raj’s home in Shivaji Park. “Earlier, Nandgaonkar had full access to Raj Thackeray’s house, but he was recently advised that he should take an appointment before going there.

This hasn’t gone down well with the leader, and the talk at the party office is that he has already made up his mind to say goodbye to MNS,” said a senior leader from the party. A senior Sena leader, who works closely with Matoshree, claimed that Nandgaonkar had been trying hard to get both the Thackerays together, but that hadn’t worked out.

“The last update that we had from Nandgaonkar’s end was that he was trying to get the estranged cousins, Raj and Uddhav, to patch-up, but it didn’t work out. After that, we haven’t heard much from him. There are many people who want to shift to our party now. The list is huge,” said the leader.

Practical concerns
The question that many are asking is why Nandgaonkar is considering switching to the Shiv Sena and not the BJP, especially since a few other top MNS leaders had made the move to the national party earlier this month.

While one of the reasons being cited is that the Sena move would mark a homecoming of sorts for Nandgaonkar, who has represented the party in the Assembly and also been a minister in the previous Sena-BJP government, he may have other practical concerns as well.

Nandgaonkar has been an MLA from Mazgaon, but had represented the Sewree constituency in the last Assembly and had contested and lost from there to a Sena candidate in this year’s polls. “It will take the BJP some time to gain a foothold in Sewree.

In spite of a strong wave in favour of the BJP, the Sena candidate won handsomely and even Nandgaonkar got some votes. Hence, the Sena has a better future here than the BJP and this could be the reason why Nandgaonkar is headed to Sena,” said a former MNS leader.

BJP sources also said that the reports of Nandgaonkar joining their party were untrue. Loyalties unchanged. When mid-day spoke to Nandgaonkar, he vehemently denied that he was going to leave the MNS for the Sena. “My loyalties lie only with Raj Thackeray and I will never leave him. It’s not true that I am leaving the MNS,” he said.

Analyst speak
“During the state Assembly elections, Uddhav consolidated his position far beyond anyone’s expectations. Uddhav has established his leadership. He took on Narendra Modi and still managed to win so many seats. The process of migration from the MNS has begun and it is time for Raj to devise a new plan.

Shiv Sena is in power, and power plays an important role,” said Prakash Bal Joshi, political analyst. “One of the key reasons behind some people choosing the Sena over the BJP is Bal Thackeray, who is like a messiah for MNS and Sena leaders. Many MNS leaders, thus, prefer to go to the Sena over any other party,” he added.

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