“We voted for ruling combine to get the suspension of MLAs revoked”

Maharashtra Navnirman Sena chief Raj Thackeray on Saturday hit back at the Shiv Sena for its diatribe after the Maharashtra Legislative Council elections in which it voted for the candidates of the ruling Congress-Nationalist Congress Party combine.

He said his party's decision was to get the suspension of its four MLAs revoked.

Wounded by the defeat of its candidate Anil Parab, the Shiv Sena mouthpiece, Saamna, accused the MNS of backing the ruling alliance in exchange for “bags of money.” “Democracy has lost, moneycracy has won,” screamed its headline, a day after the elections. “Finally, Raj Thackeray took after the Congress. The MNS was born to put the Sena at a disadvantage,” concluded an editorial on Saturday.

Talking to reporters, Mr. Raj Thackeray said: “I don't understand this hysteria the Sena has whipped up in its paper. I did this [backing the ruling combine] to send my suspended MLAs back to the Vidhan Bhavan. The most important issue before me is the revocation of their suspension for which I took this step. Was anyone's welfare ever a concern for the Sena in all the steps it has taken so far?”

Mr. Raj Thackeray said his was “an independent party,” taking independent decisions. “We are not tied down to the Sena… During the Assembly elections, I said our party would lend its support to the Congress-NCP combine and the Sena-BJP alliance, if necessary. We supported the Sena in the Ambernath municipal council elections [in April 2010]. Did they give us bags of money then? They didn't even call to thank us,” he said.

He argued that the Shiv Sena had supported the NCP in the Pune municipal corporation polls (in 2007). It backed industrialist Mukesh Patel, columnist and television personality Pritish Nandy in the Rajya Sabha elections and Lalchand Rathod in the Council polls. “Who are these people? Are they social workers? Why the alliance with the NCP in Pune? It's all right when the Sena makes the same moves. The party should examine what it has done. If their votes were split, what can I do? Every time they lose, they blame others. They never admit their mistakes and never try to improve. They should take care of their own party,” Mr. Raj Thackeray said.

He did not comment on what discussions were under way with the government on the suspended MLAs. He denied that his party's backing for the ruling coalition amounted to “a deal.” When asked, he said one might call it “a compromise.” In view of the reports of horse-trading, he favoured an open ballot system, he said.

Meanwhile, the Shiv Sena has decided to complain to the Election Commission about the alleged money transactions during the elections.