Mumbai: After former chief minister Devendra Fadnavis and Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) chief Raj Thackeray met last week, all eyes are now on what Raj will announce at the party conclave scheduled to be held on January 23 in Mumbai.
January 23rd is birth anniversary of Balasaheb Thackeray, the Shiv Sena founder. After Shiv Sena quit the alliance with the BJP and entered into a tie-up with the Congress and the NCP, the BJP has been searching for a new partner.
The BJP leadership thinks make a dent into the Shiv Sena votes, the MNS can be a good alternative. As Mumbai Municipal Corporation elections are due in 2022, the BJP want to strengthen itself to ensure core Marathi votes.
In Mumbai, the BJP is seen as a party, which is close to Gujaratis and North Indians.
In 2017, riding the popularity wave, the BJP managed to win 80 seats in the BMC on its own. This time around, it may find it difficult as they do not have a control over administration as they had in 2017.
Even after not contesting the Lok Sabha and Assembly elections in tacit understanding with the Congress and the NCP, the MNS could not perform well in the state. In 2014 and 2019 Assembly elections, it could manage to win one seat only.
There are no signs of political growth of the MNS. The decision by Raj Thackeray taken at the eleventh hour to field more than 100 candidates in the Assembly election resulted into 2.25 per cent vote share.
In many seats in Mumbai, Nashik and Marathwada, the MNS gave a tough fight and its candidate secured second position.
With this background, Raj met Fadanavis and reportedly discussed the possibility of allying with the BJP either openly or secretly.
Raj is worried about the Enforcement Directorate investigation going on against him in the Kohinoor mill land case. Notably, ever since the ED summoned him, he has been keeping a mum and has stopped uttering a word against PM Modi and BJP.
In the Lok Sabha election, during the campaigns, he showed videos and tried to expose Modi and BJP. But in Assembly election, his criticism was mild sans any videos.
Reportedly, Raj feels an alliance with the BJP will work as a shield and he will be spared in the ED case. Also, the alliance may help him to attack the Shiv Sena and get the votes of the core Hindutva and Marathi pride voters of Sena.
After the Sena came to power, discontent is emerging in the outfit as a section of leaders are upset over being ignored during the distribution of portfolios and cabinet berths. The MNS may try to tap this discontent in the Mumbai election in their favour.
Though Raj is the final authority in his party, many of his party colleagues are against the alliance with BJP. "The BJP betrayed its 30-year-old friend Sena.
We should not believe BJP," are the views expressed by MNS leaders. Raj, who was critical of Modi and BJP, will find it difficult to convince his voters and workers as to why he was now supporting the BJP.