There is talk that Raj Thackeray’s Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) will join the anti-BJP front. This after former Union Minister and Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) chief Sharad Pawar’s nephew Ajit Pawar met MNS chief Raj Thackeray on Wednesday.
The latest development comes amid differences of opinion between the Congress and the NCP over including Raj Thackeray in the Opposition alliance for the upcoming Lok Sabha and state assembly elections, reported NDTV.
Maharashtra has 48 Lok Sabha seats, the second highest after Uttar Pradesh. As per sources, MNS expects to be given at least two seats for the Parliament election. If this demand is met, Thackeray is said to be keen on joining the Opposition front.
The MNS chief has been vocal against the policies of BJP governments in Centre and state.
Last year, he asked the state farmers to throw onions at ministers of the Devendra Fadnavis government, if these ministers didn’t listen to them.
Then, he took a jibe at the NDA government at the Centre after the Congress formed governments in Chhattisgarh, Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh, saying that the country needed “Ram Rajya” and not a Ram temple.
He even remarked that Congress chief Rahul Gandhi, often mocked as “pappu”, has now become “param pujya” (highly revered).
Thackeray, also, criticised the Maharashtra government last year over the sensational killing of tigress Avni. He was unhappy with the plastic ban in the state too.
Thackeray had accused that the state authorities killed the tigress to save industrialist Anil Ambani’s proposed project in Yavatmal district. However, the charge was denied by Ambani’s company as well as a district official.
MNS’ inclusion in Maharashtra Opposition alliance is not welcomed by the Congress, which is pushing for an inclusive agenda nationally.
Thackeray is known for his anti-migrant rhetoric and for following the “Marathi Manoos” agenda. Last December, while addressing a rally of north Indians in Mumbai, he had said that the migrants from Uttar Pradesh and Bihar should question the leaders in their home states for the inability to push development.
Ajit Pawar, though, is said to be pitching for Thackeray’s inclusion in the Opposition front to consolidate the anti-BJP vote.
He had noted that the MNS had secured almost one-and-half lakh votes in the past elections in some of the constituencies in Maharashtra.
There have been reports that Sharad Pawar is also pushing for an understanding with Thackeray’s party.
The NCP chief has shared the stage with Thackeray on several occasions recently.
Last October, they had a long conversation during a flight to Mumbai, thereby setting off alliance speculations.
On January, Thackeray invited top political leaders, including Sonia and Rahul Gandhi for his son Amit’s wedding.
Sharad and Ajit Pawar too attended the event. Although BJP veteran LK Advani, along with Union cabinet ministers were invited, PM Modi was left out.
It was also reported that Ahmed Patel, who attended the wedding, had a one-on-one meeting with Thackeray at that time.