MNS chief to address at least 10 rallies in Maharashtra

Ones a political rival and now a Modi-Shah baiter, the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) supremo Raj Thackeray has turned out to be a star campaigner for the Congress and Nationalist Congress Party combine in Maharashtra. A firebrand speaker with  a mix of satire and scathing attack, Thackeray is in great demand from the candidates of Congress and NCP across Maharashtra. He is expected to address at least 10 meetings with a sole message of ”Modi-Shah hatao aur Desh bachao.”

His connect with youth, working and middle class and also rural folks is his big positive. Above all his blistering attack against BJP and Modi-Shah in particular receives an overwhelming response from the audience.

Congress and NCP have decided to cash in on Thackeray’s oratory, his charisma and his attack against the present establishment to lure votes especially from urban constituencies and also few seats in rural Maharashtra. MNS chief is likely to hold rallies for NCP nominee Supriya Sule in Baramati, NCP candidate Parth Pawar in Maval, Congress nominee Ashok Chavan in Nanded, NCP nominee and Chhatrapati Shivaji descendant Udayanraje Bhosale in Satara, NCP nominee Dhananjay Mahadik in Kolhapur, NCP candidate Sameer Bhujbal in Nashik and Congress candidate Milind Deora in south Mumbai.

Thackeray has taken a conscious decision not to contest the Lok Sabha election in view of adequate organisational build up but he is clear to use this opportunity to consolidate his party’s position ahead of forthcoming state assembly election slated for September-October this year. 

Thackeray’s bonhomie with Congress and NCP started last year when MNS chief in a public function had interviewed NCP chief Sharad Pawar. BJP-Shiv Sena termed the interview as ”fixed” one while Thackeray had downplayed the criticism. Subsequently, Thackeray traveled with Pawar in a plane from Aurangabad to Mumbai which triggered a talk of his party may join hands with opposition parties to take on BJP and Shiv Sena in Maharashtra.

In the meanwhile, Thackeray, who in the past had showered praise on Narendra Modi after visiting Gujarat and supported Gujarat development model, had started stepped up his attack against BJP led government at the Centre and in Maharashtra. He personally targeted Modi, BJP president Amit Shah, Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis on a number of issues including demonetisation, farm distress, deteriorating law and order, security lapses on the border and polarisation. 

Thackeray’s repeated tirade against BJP and Modi in particular made NCP in particular to swing into action and increase rapport with him. MNS chief held close door meetings with Pawar and later he also met former chief minister Ashok Chavan and former deputy chief minister Ajit Pawar for a possible tie up during the general election. However, due to stiff stand by Congress not to ally with MNS fearing backlash from north Indians in the state and rest of country, the alliance failed to materialise.

As expected, Thackeray’s attack against Modi-Shah duo has forced BJP to react. There has been a mad rush from BJP leaders to criticize Thackeray. Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis claimed that Thackeray was a ”parrot of Baramati.” Fadnavis hinted that Thackeray was leveling allegations on the directions of Pawar who hails from Baramati in Pune district.

BJP’s Mumbai unit chief Ashish Shelar asked Thackeray not to punch above his weight. Shelar reminded Thackeray that the state assembly is already free of MNS as its lone legislator has already joined Shiv Sena which is BJP’s ally.

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