Raj Thackeray meets CM Eknath Shinde in Vidhan Bhavan, renewing potential alliance buzz

Maharashtra Chief Minister Eknath Shinde with Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) President Raj Thackeray during a meeting, in Nagpur on December 23, 2022.

Maharashtra Chief Minister Eknath Shinde with Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) President Raj Thackeray during a meeting, in Nagpur on December 23, 2022.
| Photo Credit: PTI

Amid ambivalence in forging an alliance with the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) chief Raj Thackeray on Friday met with Chief Minister Eknath Shinde on the Legislative Assembly premises during the ongoing Winter Session of the State Legislature in Nagpur.

Mr. Thackeray held a brief closed-door meeting with Mr. Shinde, where the two leaders were seen sharing much bonhomie.

The meeting has renewed the buzz of a possible alliance between the ruling Eknath Shinde-led Shiv Sena (Balasahebanchi Shiv Sena)-BJP coalition and the MNS before the crucial civic polls in the State.

Mr. Thackeray was in Nagpur city to give appointment letters to the newly-recruited office bearers of his party in the Vidarbha region. Addressing his partymen on the occasion, Mr. Thackeray said every political party or political leader has to face defeat at some point in their career. “However, that does not mean one should be dispirited. Each party has its phases. Earlier, the Congress was the established party in Vidarbha. Then, the BJP fought them to become the dominant party here… Even the BJP could secure a majority only in 2014. The RSS was established in 1925 and the Jan Sangh in 1952. While they had some minor electoral gains, it took them several decades before they could come to power with an absolute majority in 2014. Even the Congress has had to struggle and so did the Shiv Sena. Despite being founded in 1966, the Sena secured power only in 1995,” the MNS chief pointed out.

In a bid to enthuse his cadre, Mr. Thackeray said that while other parties may laugh at the MNS’s political neophytes now, tomorrow they would be surprised when these rookies (newly-recruited MNS bearers) begin winning local and regional elections.

“Today, our detractors will say what ‘will these newbies [fresh MNS office bearers] do?’. They may laugh at you… but tomorrow, you will surprise them by winning Corporation, Assembly and Lok Sabha elections,” said the MNS chief.

In a bid to overhaul the party organisation, Mr. Thackeray had dissolved all top MNS posts in Nagpur in September this year while stating that a new working committee would be constituted soon in which youngsters would be given a chance.

A flurry of meetings between Mr. Thackeray and BJP leaders in July and August this year had sparked widespread speculation of a possible alliance between the BJP and the MNS ahead of the high-stakes polls to the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) and other civic bodies.

However, during his five-day tour of the Vidarbha region in September, Mr. Thackeray hinted that his party would ‘go it alone’ in the civic polls, stating that fighting against the “dominant political parties” of the region was essential if the MNS had to gain a toehold in Vidarbha.

At the same time, Mr. Thackeray, known for closeness to the BJP and especially Deputy CM Devendra Fadnavis, has been regularly meeting with Mr. Fadnavis over various issues.

Following its rout in the 2019 Maharashtra Assembly election and its general decline in the State’s politics, the MNS had changed its ideological direction by veering towards ‘Hindutva’ politics, signalled by Mr. Thackeray’s adoption of a saffron flag incorporating Chhatrapati Shivaji’s royal seal or ‘Rajmudra’ in 2020.     

Since then, the MNS has inched ever closer to the BJP in an attempt on the MNS’s part to seize the ‘Hindutva’ space from the Shiv Sena led by ex-Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray – the common adversary of Mr. Shinde’s faction, the BJP and the MNS.

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