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It is important that the party introspect: MNS leaders

MNS leaders are now concerned that unless the party takes stock of the election whitewash and changes its strategy, its members could begin jumping ship

The MNS’ dismal performance in the recent state Assembly elections has prompted party members to question where they went wrong, so they can make attempts to turn things around ahead of the Pune Municipal Corporation elections in 2017. So humiliating was their defeat – in the city and the state – that senior leaders are now concerned that unless the MNS changes its strategies soon, members will begin deserting the party.

Raj Thackeray
Derailed engine? The winning streak of Raj Thackeray’s party appears to have ended with two consecutive losses, in the Lok Sabha polls and in the Assembly elections  File pic

Better days
In the 2009 Assembly polls, the MNS had won the Khadakwasla seat, and had ranked second in at least two other constituencies in the city. The party fared even better in the 2012 Pune Municipal Corporation elections, emerging as the second largest party in the civic body, with 29 corporators. But its winning streak seems to have run out, with the party suffering two big, consecutive losses in the Lok Sabha polls and the state Assembly elections this year.

The party office in the city looks deserted post the election debacle
The party office in the city looks deserted post the election debacle. Pic/ Shashank Sane

Not only did the party fail to win even one seat in the city, it performed abysmally across the state, winning just one out of a total of 288 seats. What makes the situation more grave, is the fact that amongst the party’s eight candidates in the Assembly polls in the city, five were sitting corporators who could not even muster enough support in their own wards.

MNS corporator, Ajay Tayde, who contested the recent elections from the Cantonment constituency where he came fourth with 14,462 votes, said, “There were a series of events which went wrong and ultimately resulted in the party’s defeat in the city. First of all, there was no coordination amongst the city leaders. We received the candidatures quite late, which gave us little time for campaigning. Even the party’s blueprint came quite late, and had not reached the voters.”

When asked whether he is worried about retaining his post in the next corporation elections scheduled for 2017, he said, “I have a good rapport with people in my ward, and since the last three years, I have been carrying out many developmental projects. Hence, I am quite confident that I will retain my post. At the same time, it is important that the party introspect on its consecutive losses, and take lessons from them to ensure a rebound in PMC.”

The leaders have attributed the crushing defeat in the Assembly elections to several factors, which include rampant infighting within the party, as well as a drop in credibility – factors which could push party members to jump ship to other parties.

One of the party’s office bearers said on the condition of anonymity, “Take the last Assembly polls or the corporation elections - all our candidates had banked on the image of Rajsaheb. But during the LS poll campaign, due to some of his statements, and the party’s confusing stand on some issues, MNS lost its credibility. If this continues, people will start walking out of the party for better options.”

It’s an open secret that within the city, the MNS is divided into two camps, and it is thought that the bitter rivalry between the two factions may have had a large role in party’s downfall here.

So intense is the rivalry between the two camps, that last year, when the party declared its city office bearers, it reportedly appointed two city presidents to appease the demands of both sides.

“Have you noticed that party leader, Deepak Paigude (the MNS’ LS candidate from Pune, who was party chief, Raj Thackeray’s close aide since the Shiv Sena days) and many other corporators did not campaign for any of the party’s candidates? What’s more shocking is that none of the top leaders in Mumbai bothered to do anything about it,” said another party worker.

All that the MNS can do now is to take stock of what went wrong, and change those factors so the party can cut its losses, admit its leaders. “Yes, there are many reasons behind the party’s defeat. During corporation elections and the previous Assembly polls, there were many voters who had turned to us who have now gone back to the BJP or other parties. After Diwali, the party will review the situation and chalk out strategies,” said Ajay Shinde, MNS’ city leader.

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