The Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS), led by Raj Thackeray, on Sunday announced that it will not be contesting the 2019 Lok Sabha polls.
A statement issued by MNS leader Shirish Sawant made the announcement, stating, “We will talk more on March 19.” The statement indicates that party chief Mr. Thackeray will be conducting campaign rallies to push his anti-Modi stand throughout the election season. However, the MNS’s decision has not come as a surprise after the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) announced candidates for Kalyan and Mumbai North East seats, last week. According to reports, the NCP was interested in including the MNS in the alliance and was even ready to offer it one of these two seats. NCP leader Ajit Pawar and Mr. Thackeray had held a meeting last month to finalise the seats.
Congress leaders, including its Mumbai president Sanjay Nirupam and Maharashtra president Ashok Chavan, opposed the idea. “We have already clarified that we cannot take the MNS along with us in the alliance. We do not approve its stand on certain issues,” Mr. Chavan had said.
Congress sources had claimed that joining hands with the MNS would have affected party in northern states as Mr. Thackeray’s party has been involved in attacks against north Indians and migrant population.
The decision comes as a shot in the arm for the Opposition as it will avoid the division of anti-BJP votes. According to sources, Mr. Thackeray will campaign and hold rallies in strategic constituencies where he is guaranteed to influence certain percentage of Marathi voters against the BJP or the Shiv Sena candidate. His public rally in Mumbai on the party’s foundation day was streamed live across news channels and even Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis had to respond to him, calling him a ‘parrot of Baramati,’ that is of NCP.
According to MNS leaders, even though it could not win seats in the 2014 general elections and failed to impact the Mumbai civic polls, each of the six Lok Sabha constituencies in Mumbai has around 60,000 to 90,000 MNS votes on an average. “These votes may turn out to be effective for the Opposition,” a leader said.
In the 2014 Assembly polls, the party could manage to win only one seat. However, the lone MLA, Sharad Sonawane, joined the Sena last week, making the MNS without any elected public representative.