NAGPUR, Maharashtra — In the 2019 Lok Sabha election, the BJP-Shiv Sena combine won most of the seats in Maharashtra, taking full advantage of the fragmented opposition and Narendra Modi’s popularity to paper over the cracks in its own alliance.
But even among the anti-BJP side, there was one clear winner—Raj Thackeray, the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) chief, who used his oratorical skills to deliver rousing anti-Modi tirades and drum up support for the Congress-NCP alliance. Though MNS put up no candidates in the general election, Thackeray’s witty speeches, which drew large crowds and hordes of TV cameras, rejuvenated his own dispirited cadre and helped him chart his own path back to political relevance.
Even after the election results, while most opposition leaders slinked away to lick their wounds, Thackeray pounced on EVMs as his weapon of choice, alleging that the BJP’s victory was because it managed to manipulate the machines. In July, he even wrote to the Election Commission of India, asking that the Maharashtra assembly elections be held using ballot papers.
Now, after weeks of trying to get major opposition leaders to join his anti-EVM campaign, Thackeray, once seen as Shiv Sena founder Bal Thackeray’s rightful heir in oratory skills as well as whipping up xenophobia, has been served an Enforcement Directorate (ED) summons for Thursday morning.
Coming barely months ahead of the state assembly elections, the summons will not only let Thackeray portray himself as the victim of the BJP’s political vendetta, it will also give his party, which currently has no MLAs in the state assembly, the chance to flex some muscle in Mumbai.
The MNS, which was founded in 2006, had a meteoric rise initially, winning 13 assembly seats in 2009 with ‘Marathi pride’ its sole agenda. But five years later, in 2014, the party won just one seat, and even that MLA soon left to join Shiv Sena.
While Thackeray tried different tactics, including supporting Modi,...