MNS used Sena’s formula to scuttle its prospects

Meena Menon

It didn’t win any seat but helped rout Sena in Mumbai, Thane

MNS contested 12 of the 48 seats in the State

In Thane, it got more votes than the NCP

MUMBAI: An aggressive young leader, a new enemy and Marathi asmita (pride). The Shiv Sena’s sure-fire formula was lifted in toto by its breakaway element Raj Thackeray in the 15th Lok Sabha elections. Though the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) formed by Bal Thackeray’s nephew did not win a single seat, it helped rout the Sena in Mumbai and Thane.

The Sena has reacted rather predictably to the humiliation. Sena executive president Uddhav Thackeray wondered who will take up the cause of the Marathi manoos in Parliament. A Saamna editorial compared Raj Thackeray to Suryaji Pisal, a traitor who let Raigad fort fall into Mughal hands after Shivaji’s time.

In a front page clarification in the party mouthpiece on Tuesday, Bal Thackeray has declared that he has cut off links with Raj. An enemy of the Marathi Manoos was his enemy. He would have nothing to do with those who splintered the unity of the Marathi manoos for selfish political gains, even if he was a blood relative.

Overall, the Sena though has not done so badly. It won 11 seats in the rest of Maharashtra, three of them in western Maharashtra, an NCP bastion. But it has lost its heart — Mumbai.

Assembly segment-wise votes polled in Mumbai, Thane and Bhiwandi indicate that the MNS was ahead in some places and came second in two seats — Mumbai North East and Nashik. It contested 12 of the 48 seats in the State. In the Thane assembly segment, a Sena stronghold, its candidate Rajan Raje got more votes than the NCPs Sanjeev Naik. Overall Mr. Raje got a total of 1,34,840 votes, cutting the Sena down to 251,980. Mr. Naik romped home with over three lakh votes.

In Bhiwandi the MNS candidate polled 1,07,090 votes, giving Suresh Taware of the Congress the seat.

Close call

In Pune, the MNS polled 75,930 votes. But it was in Nashik that Hemant Godse almost emerged victorious. In Nashik assembly segment Mr. Godse polled 54,367 votes, over 20,000 more than his NCP rival. In Deolali too, with 39,966 votes, he was ahead of both the Sena and the NCP. In Igatpuri and Nashik East he was ahead of the Sena. Mr. Godse ended up second with 2,16,661 votes and NCP’s Sameer Bhujbal 2,38,693 votes. The Sena came third with 1,58,239 votes.

Citadels fall

In Mumbai too, the MNS stormed the traditional Sena citadels and knocked the stuffing out of the party. In Mumbai South, Bala Nandgaonkar showed what he was capable of, outflanking sitting MP Mohan Rawle of the Sena to come second after Milind Deora of the Congress. Mr. Nandgaonkar has a reputation for upsets — he defeated Chhagan Bhujbal in the Mazgaon assembly seat after Mr. Bhujbal left the Sena.

The MNS led in Shivdi and came second in Byculla and Worli assembly segments. The MNS polled 1,59,729 votes, while the Sena mustered 1,46,118.

Shweta Parulkar (MNS) in Mumbai South Central polled 1,08,341 votes, affecting Sena’s Suresh Gambhir who lost to Eknath Gaikwad of the Congress. In Mumbai North East, Shishir Shinde, a former Shiv Sena MLC, who switched to MNS, was ahead in Bhandup west, Ghatkopar west and Vikhroli segments and claims he only lost due to the Muslim voters in the Mankhurd assembly segment.

Mr. Shinde polled 1,95,148 votes, while Sanjay Patil of the NCP got 2,13,505 votes, a sneeze ahead of BJP’s Kirit Somaiya with 2,10,572.

In Mumbai North, Shirish Parkar of the MNS polled 1,47,502 votes and led in the Magathane assembly segment with 41,545 votes.

The MNS got a good response in the Borivali, Dahisar and Charkop assembly segments as well. Mumbai North is a traditional BJP bastion and Mr. Ram Naik expected the MNS to get about 70,000 votes. But they eventually ended up polling over a lakh, affecting his chances. Sanjay Nirupam of the Congress won the seat.

In Mumbai North Central, the MNS candidate Shilpa Sarpotdar got more votes than the BJP in four of the six assembly segments that form the Lok Sabha seat.

She ended up with 1,32,546 votes, a little less than Mahesh Jethmalani who got 1,44,797 votes. The winning candidate Priya Dutt of the Congress remained, in a sense, unaffected with a tally of 3,19,352 votes.

Tough fight

In Mumbai North west, where Sena’s Gajanan Kirtikar was expected to win, Shalini Thakare of the MNS gave a tough fight, taking huge chunks of the Sena vote in Goregaon, Dindoshi, Jogeshwari East and Andheri to total 124,000 votes. Gurudas Kamat, whose vote bank was eroded a little by Abu Asim Azmi of the Samajwadi Party, won with 2,53,920 votes. Kirtikar came second with 2,15,533.

Hit its opponents

The results show that the MNS has hit its opponents where it hurts most. By focusing on the North Indian migrants and whipping up passions, it has managed to catch the attention of the restless youth and middle classes who are insecure and looking for a change in leadership.

There is no doubt that the Marathi vote has gone to the MNS which has emerged as the flavour of the month. However, the MNS has only given hope. It has not won a single seat to demonstrate that it can practice what it preaches.

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