The cliffhanger in Mahim ended with the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) demolishing the long-standing Shiv Sena fortress. The implication of this victory unleashed frenzy among MNS supporters on Thursday.
“We will be here till we are allowed to dance on the streets. I don’t care if any bastion was felled; I think this is a victory for the future generations,” declared Anjali Dilip, a college lecturer, and one among the 400-strong crowd gathered outside the counting centre in the Mahim constituency.
The crowd lifted the winning candidate Nitin Sardesai amid loud cheers. He led by 8,920 votes, beating Congress candidate and heavyweight Sena rebel Sada Sarvankar. The Sena candidate Adesh Bandekar came a distant third.
“I cannot express the feeling of happiness after conquering the bastion of one party. Our winning streak will continue in future. I knew from the word go that victory would be ours. People have voted for us positively. These votes belong to the MNS, they are not the votes of some other party,” Mr. Sardesai said.
Of the 60 seats in Mumbai and Thane, the MNS has bagged eight — six in Mumbai and two in Thane. The Congress-Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) combine took 26 seats, the Sena-Bharatiya Janata Party 18, while the Third Front and others have four each.
The MNS has equalled the NCP’s performance in the region, where the Democratic Front alliance partner won eights seats. The MNS almost matched the performance of the Sena and the BJP individually. Each of the saffron parties has won nine seats in Mumbai and Thane.
Contrary to expectations, MNS star candidate Shalini Thakare lost the Dindoshi seat, which went to the Congress’ Rajhans Singh. Another surprise was the defeat of MNS general secretary Shirish Parkar from Vile Parle. He fell behind the Sena and the Congress. On the other hand, a rank political debutant Krishna Hegde won by a thin margin of 1,704 votes.
In Ghatkopar (West), the MNS was the nemesis of BJP’s key candidate Poonam Mahajan, daughter of former BJP leader Pramod Mahajan and the niece of party general secretary Gopinath Munde. In a major upset for the saffron party, she lost to the MNS’ Ram Kadam by a big margin of 26,228 votes.
Across the State, the MNS has brought home 13 MLAs. It played spoiler in the neighbouring region of north Maharashtra. The party made a clean sweep of Nashik city, considered . Shiv Sena chief Bal Thackeray’s stronghold, by winning all three seats. In the process, it dislodged the Congress’ Minister of State for public health Shobha Bachhav. In Pune, the MNS won the Khadakwasla seat.
None of the parties matched the celebration the MNS put up. Youths on motorbikes carrying the party flag zipped through the streets for most part of the evening. The scene outside MNS chief Raj Thackeray’s residence in central Mumbai was nothing short of a spectacle. A throng of supporters crammed the lane outside his house; they beat drums, burst firecrackers and raised slogans. Inside, in a room crammed with mediapersons, Mr. Raj Thackeray appeared to be in full command.
“Marathi voters have bestowed their trust on a three-and-a-half-year-old party; I won’t betray that trust. I value that trust the most. We will sit in opposition and show how to raise issues and perform tasks. My MLAs will be in the Vidhan Sabha and I will be in the streets,” he said.
He dismissed suggestions of helping the Congress win by cutting the Marathi vote. He said that with a weak offensive against the failures of the ruling government, the opposition had proved to be a bigger loser. As an assurance, he avowed that he would keep the winners on a tight leash and would not let them turn apathetic as is the norm. “We don’t want to do the same thing. I have not formed a party to do what others have been doing before me.”