MNS chief’s silence on BJP-ruled state triggers speculation that he might be cosying up to the saffron party ahead of the BMC polls
MNS chief Raj Thackeray addresses the party workers at NESCO in Goregaon, on Sunday. Pics/Satej Shinde
MNS chief Raj Thackeray sought to shed his anti-north Indian image during an address to party workers on Sunday, triggering speculations that he was trying to get close to the BJP ahead of the BMC elections. As he trained his guns on Rahul Gandhi, his estranged cousin Uddhav Thackeray and Governor Bhagat Singh Koshyari, he was unusually soft on Uttar Pradesh, which was once his favourite punching bag.
Addressing MNS workers at NESCO, Goregaon, Raj said the 2008 railway agitation by his party, which had led to attacks on several north Indian candidates appearing for the All India Railway Recruitment Board entrance exam for the Western region in Mumbai, was given a different colour by the Hindi media. He insisted that the agitation was against candidates who had come only from Bihar and not against the state.
The MNS chief said his party opposed those who had come to snatch the opportunities of the sons of the soil from Maharashtra. He also said that a candidate had abused an MNS worker, sparking retaliation. Political analysts said Raj is deliberately keeping Uttar Pradesh out of his firing range as he wants to be close to the BJP. His mention of Bihar in particular is another indication as the state’s CM Nitish Kumar recently snapped his alliance with the saffron party.
Senior political analyst Abhay Deshpande said there were talks ahead of Raj’s meeting that he might clear his stance about stitching a tie-up with the BJP. “While he kept all his options open yesterday, he has given an indication. He made it clear that the agitation related to railway jobs was not against Uttar Pradesh and Bihar but was against those from UP and Bihar who had come to Mumbai to snatch away the job opportunities of the sons of the soil from Maharashtra. By clarifying this, Raj has kept his option open to go in alliance with BJP.”
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Sandeep Pradhan, another senior political analyst, said, “One thing is for sure Raj Thackeray is in need of a political friend for a long time. Eknath Shinde has a powerful presence in Thane but if we see in Mumbai, Eknath Shinde does not have much clout. BJP wants to divide Shiv Sena [Uddhav Balasaheb Thackeray] Marathi votes in Mumbai for which MNS is the best partner. It will be interesting to see if the BJP goes into an open alliance with MNS for the BMC elections or will both parties have a backdoor understanding.”
On MNS’s potential role, Pradhan said, “MNS will help in splitting Sena votes in Mumbai and during the municipal elections in Thane, Eknath Shinde group [Balasahebanchi Shiv Sena] will split Shiv Sena [Uddhav Balasaheb Thackeray] votes and this way BJP will try to corner Shiv Sena [Uddhav Balasaheb Thackeray] in every possible way.”
During the address, Raj slammed Congress leader Rahul Gandhi for his comments on Veer Savarkar, targeted Uddhav Thackeray and mocked his cousin over his health. Raj also took potshots at Governor Koshyari and criticised cabinet minister Abdul Sattar for his derogatory remarks on NCP MP Supriya Sule.