After meeting Shah, Raj Thackeray holds parleys with CM Shinde and Deputy CM Fadnavis

Sources says discussions centred on the number of seats to be given to the MNS if Mr. Thackeray joins the ruling coalition

March 22, 2024 01:51 am | Updated 02:29 am IST - Pune

 Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) chief Raj Thackeray. File

Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) chief Raj Thackeray. File | Photo Credit: ANI

Following up on his recent meeting with Union Home Minister Amit Shah in Delhi, Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) chief Raj Thackeray on Thursday held extensive parleys with Chief Minister Eknath Shinde and Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and Deputy CM Devendra Fadnavis as political circles continued to hum with the anticipation of the MNS joining the Mahayuti coalition in the State and the NDA at the Centre ahead of the Lok Sabha election.

Mr. Thackeray met with Mr. Shinde and Mr. Fadnavis at the plush Taj Lands End in suburban Bandra in Mumbai, where the three leaders had a nearly two-hour meeting. Deputy CM Ajit Pawar, whose Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) is the third constituent of the ruling Mahayuti coalition (the others being Mr. Shinde’s Shiv Sena faction and the BJP), was not present at the meeting.

While all three leaders continued to remain tight-lipped about the meeting, sources said the discussions centred on the number of likely seats to be given to the MNS if Mr. Thackeray’s party joined the ruling coalition.

The MNS is reportedly interested in contesting the Mumbai South and Nashik seats. The Shirdi Lok Sabha constituency is also being floated around for Mr. Thackeray’s party to contest. The names of senior MNS leader Bala Nandgaonkar and Amit Thackeray (Raj’s son) are being mooted as possible candidates.

Following the meeting with Mr. Shinde and Mr. Fadnavis, Mr. Thackeray held another round of meetings with his MNS leaders at his residence ‘Shivtirth’ in Mumbai.

Meanwhile, leaders in the Opposition Maha Vikas Aghadi alleged that the MNS candidate would be made to contest on the symbol of the Shiv Sena led by CM Eknath Shinde.  

Reacting to this, NCP (Sharadchandra Pawar) MP Supriya Sule urged Raj Thackeray to preserve his party’s identity while, in a thinly-veiled jibe at the BJP, said that there was “a conspiracy to finish off Maharashtra’s independent and self-respecting parties by invisible forces from Delhi”.

“I urge Raj Thackeray to preserve his party’s identity and ensure that his candidates fight on the MNS symbol…First, they [the BJP] broke Bal Thackeray’s Shiv Sena, then they helped split Sharad Pawar’s NCP. Now, they are after the MNS, which was created to uphold Marathi pride. Why are invisible forces trying to destroy the MNS’ existence?” alleged Ms. Sule.   

Despite the MNS not having a single MLA or MP across Maharashtra, the BJP hopes to make use of Mr. Thackeray’s still extant Marathi-speaking vote-bases in the Mumbai, Thane, Pune, and Nashik civic bodies, particularly to challenge Mr. Raj Thackeray’s estranged cousin – former CM and Shiv Sena (UBT) chief Uddhav Thackeray.

Observers say that the adhesion of Mr. Raj Thackeray, still considered a crowd puller with his distinctive oratory leavened by savage lampooning of his opponents, would be an undeniable “psychological boost” for the BJP which could then claim to have a Thackeray clan member on their side.

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