Ending a week of speculation whether it will contest elections, Raj Thackeray is planning to declare his list of candidates on Sunday. His party the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) is expected to put up candidates against its political rival Shiv Sena, but spare alliance partners BJP, the party sources have said.
“Where we fight and whom we target will be declared by our leader and the announcement will be made tomorrow,” said Bala Nandgaonkar, MNS MLA from Mumbai.
The party will celebrate its eighth anniversary at the Shanmukhananda Hall, where Mr. Thackeray is expected to declare the party candidates.
There was speculation as whether the MNS would contest the Lok Sabha after former BJP president Nitin Gadkari met Mr. Thackeray last week, asking him not to split the saffron votes. This had upset the Sena, after which the BJP had to pacify its alliance partner.
However, the BJP’s overtures towards the MNS continue, despite Sena’s disapproval. Prominent BJP leader Vinod Tawde and Ashish Shelar visited Mr. Thackeray to ask for the party co-operation in the state council polls.
In 2009, the MNS candidates had drawn more than one lakh votes in all six constituencies from Mumbai, which resulted in the defeat of Sena and BJP, which the BJP wants to avoid in 2014 elections.
Sources say while the MNS wants to fight aggressively against the Sena, it has reached a tacit agreement with the BJP to not cut in to its vote.
When asked to react, both the BJP and the Sena were cautious. “He (Raj Thackeray) has not announced any list as of yet. What he does remains to be seen and we will react only after the list comes out,” said Sanjay Raut, Shiv Sena MP and spokesperson.
The BJP too, wish to remain silent till the official announcement. “Our meetings with him were in the interest of our party. We hope that it will benefit us in the elections,” said a senior BJP leader from the state on the condition of anonymity.
The BJP has also pointed out that its alliance partner has often chosen to take a divergent stand from the NDA. For instance it says that the Sena had extended the support to Pratibha Patil as the president even though the BJP was against it.