‘Don’t have symbol, but have the ideology’: Raj Thackeray’s using Sena troubles to revive MNS 

‘Don’t have symbol, but have the ideology’: Raj Thackeray’s using Sena troubles to revive MNS 

Back after lying low for two months, MNS chief Thackeray exhorts functionaries to do more to defend the party

File photo of Raj Thackeray | ANI

File photo of Raj Thackeray | ANI

Mumbai: First, he walked out of the Shiv Sena. Then, he slammed the Congress and the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) only to cozy up to the latter. What followed next was love-hate ties with the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) which ended with a flirtation. Now, Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) president Raj Thackeray is looking to tap the feud within the Shiv Sena to his political advantage.

At a meeting of MNS functionaries Tuesday, Thackeray criticised Maharashtra’s political parties for “forging alliances only for power” and insisted that his walking out of the Shiv Sena in 2005 was not “back-stabbing”.  

He was referring to the June split in the Shiv Sena, which led to former chief minister Uddhav Thackeray’s resignation and the swearing-in of Eknath Shinde in his place. 

“Mine wasn’t a rebellion. All these people went for power,” Thackeray said in a veiled taunt at Maharashtra Chief Minister Eknath Shinde who walked out of the Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) government in June with 39 other MLAs claiming to be the ‘real’ Shiv Sena and forging an alliance with the BJP to form the government. 

The MVA government comprised the Shiv Sena, the NCP, and the Congress.

Thackeray, who was out of action for two months as he was recuperating after a hip replacement surgery, said he did not “stab anyone in their back” or “betrayed anyone.”

“Your Raj Thackeray met Balasaheb Thackeray and told him that I am stepping out. While leaving, Manohar Joshi was there. He went out of the room, and after that Balasaheb called me in. He hugged me and said ‘now go’. He knew,” Thackeray said.

Thackeray had walked out of the Shiv Sena with several other party leaders after Bal Thackeray chose his son Uddhav as his successor. In 2006, he formed MNS and took up the Shiv Sena’s mantle of aggressively fighting for the sons of the soil. After tasting some quick electoral success, the MNS has been in a rout since 2014 and Thackeray has been trying out different formulae for his party to bounce back.

The MNS chief also gave an earful to his party functionaries for “not doing enough for the party” — neither in terms of defending MNS, nor in taking the party’s message to the people.   

“I think a lot of people say things about us, and you all don’t give it back enough. People said Raj Thackeray and MNS left their ‘andolans’ (agitations) midway. Tell me one ‘andolan’ that we have left midway,” he said, citing the closure of several toll booths after the MNS’ 2015 protests against toll collection as well as his party’s most recent agitation against loudspeakers at mosques.

Also Read: How Raj Thackeray and his MNS are planning to resurrect themselves in ‘do-or-die’ BMC polls

‘Don’t care about the symbol’

Raj Thackeray’s new pitch comes at a time when the Shinde and Thackeray factions of Shiv Sena are in a tug of war over who is the real Shiv Sena and which faction should get the party’s symbol of the bow and arrow to contest elections. The vertical split in the party has come ahead of the Maharashtra civic elections that are likely to be held this year in major cities, including Mumbai — the Shiv Sena’s home turf and power centre.

“I want to take my grandfather’s (Prabodhankar Thackeray) ideology forward,” Thackeray said. “I don’t care if I have the symbol, or not. Whether I have the name or not. I have the ideology. It is the most invaluable.” 

In another dig at Shinde, the MNS chief said he did not join anyone after resigning from the Shiv Sena, but formed his own outfit to take forward Balasaheb’s ideology.

“The politics that are going on in Maharashtra over the past two and a half years, it’s not good. It has never been like this in Maharashtra. Those who voted in 2019 will not even be able to figure out who they voted for. Who went with whom and who split with whom has become confusing. If you think this is politics, no. It is just a monetary adjustment for power,” Thackeray said.

‘Respect the position party gave you’

At the meeting with party functionaries, Thackeray spoke about how he had given a letter to the MNS office bearers regarding action on loudspeakers to see what they do with it.

“I could have released the letter on my social media accounts. But I gave it to you to see what you do with it. Many MNS workers tell me that ‘we did not get the letter from our functionaries’ or that ‘we would have taken it to the public’,” Thackeray said.

Party functionaries should respect the position given to them, he said. “Some have shown negligence on a large scale. Everyone has become cold. Everyone is only thinking about elections; not about party or administration.” 

The MNS chief also warned his party members against talking about internal differences on social media, saying it will lead to their immediate dismissal.

“It is necessary to fight these elections with all our strength. … I will take ‘sabhas’ (meetings) wherever it is possible,” Thackeray said. The MNS chief also urged his party members to launch a massive registration drive, saying he should be able to “see MNS hoardings everywhere”.

(Edited by Uttara Ramaswamy)

Also Read: Shiv Sena implosion shows things go easy when you drum up hate. Moderation is a nowhere road