Raj Thackeray offers himself for ‘political alliances’

Mumbai: Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) President Raj Thackeray on Tuesday indicated that he is “open” to offers of political alliance for the forthcoming civic elections in the state.

Speaking informally with media persons here, Raj, 49, said he would consider any such proposals ‘positively’ — reiterating his stand of last July, which was spurned by cousin Uddhav Thackeray’s Shiv Sena.

“If there is any proposal, I shall consider it positively,” Raj said with a broad grin.

When asked to react, Uddhav Thackeray merely smiled, folded his hands and muttered ‘Jai Maharashtra’, interpreted as a polite rejection of Raj’s overtures.

However, the MNS chief’s shift in stance after waging a lone battle as the fifth political force in the state for over a decade, set political circles aflutter, with the civic election schedules due to be announced anytime now.

Besides, the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the Shiv Sena — the ally at the Centre and in the state — are yet to formalise their alliance for the upcoming civic elections to around 10 major municipal bodies, including Mumbai, next month.

Uddhav Thackeray virtually served an ultimatum to the BJP to come forth with an alliance proposal, “or the elections would be over”.

Responding to this, BJP state president Raosaheb Danve said that all alliances would be the prerogative of the local party units.

Incidentally, Raj Thackeray has had at least two meetings with Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis in the recent months, which unnerved BJP ally Shiv Sena, which has been sharply critical of its partner for the past two years.

Raj Thackeray’s attitudinal shift has set off alarm bells ringing even among other major political parties, particularly the opposition Congress and the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP), which are yet to finalise their alliance.

Without alliances, the BJP, Shiv Sena, Congress and the NCP would have to contend with MNS eating into their votes/seats in many civic bodies.

Since its founding, the MNS’ potential as a ‘spoiler’ has been a bitter experience for all the major political forces in all the state elections and similar prospects are not ruled out.

In the 2012 civic elections in Mumbai, the MNS bagged 27 seats, eating into the vote-shares of both the ruling Shiv Sena and the BJP, besides other parties.

After a bitter feud with cousin Uddhav, Raj had quit the Shiv Sena in December 2005 and launched the MNS in March 2006, with the motto of working for the locals and ‘sons of the soil’ — a pet theme of his uncle, the late Sena supremo Bal Thackeray.

But in the past couple of years, Raj has struggled to keep his flock together with many deserting the MNS for greener pastures in other parties.

Under such a scenario, an alliance with any major political group could serve as an elixir, more for the MNS than the alliance partner.