Raj Thackeray
Raj Thackeray has 'exposed' the BJP's failures on seven different occasions this poll season | Facebook
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Mumbai: The Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) is not contesting the ongoing Lok Sabha elections, but its leader Raj Thackeray has still managed to keep his name in the season’s political narrative by donning the avatar of an ‘investigative politician’.

Thackeray has so far addressed at least seven rallies across Maharashtra, highlighting issues on which the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led government has “failed the people”, backing up his claims with facts, figures, archived newspaper clippings, audio clips, videos and a bit of basic old-fashioned field research.

Members of the opposition have lauded him, while keeping an arm’s distance by insisting that he is not campaigning for the Congress-Nationalist Congress Party (NCP). The ruling BJP and Shiv Sena leaders, meanwhile, have been compelled to take notice of Thackeray, attacking him on his wavering stance and demanding that the expenditure on his rallies be counted as part of the Congress-NCP’s poll expenses.

Who’s doing this research?

Thackeray has so far addressed rallies in Nanded, Solapur, Kolhapur, Satara, Pune, Raigad and Mumbai. He is scheduled to address one more rally in Mumbai, another in Panvel, and a third in Nashik.

An MNS functionary said three party leaders — Anil Shidore, Sandeep Deshpande and Thackeray’s son Amit — are spearheading the research for his speeches.

“We have a team of about 50 MNS karyakartas sitting in Mumbai. They keep scouting the internet for old speeches by the PM and other BJP leaders, checking facts and finding news reports and videos online that can be useful during Raj saheb’s speeches,” the MNS functionary said. “Now people have also started sending us information. We check that too.”

Deshpande said: “Raj saheb decided he wanted to have rallies in this format nearly six months ago, irrespective of whether we contest elections. We started a bulk of our work before last Diwali. For example, the field work at Harisal village was done in October.”

The story of Harisal village

The Harisal story has been one of Thackeray’s favourites throughout his rallies.

Harisal is a village in the Amravati district of Maharashtra, which the government has projected as the country’s first digital village. Thackeray has attempted to pull apart this claim with a video, which shows that the village still struggles with power supply and internet connectivity.

The BJP countered Thackeray’s claim by releasing a video on its Twitter handle to show how Harisal has a digital lab with students learning how to use computers and phones, and that the village has internet connectivity. Maharashtra CM Devendra Fadnavis also slammed Thackeray, saying the MNS chief, sitting in Mumbai’s Dadar, has no idea what Harisal was like four years ago and how much it has progressed.


Also read: Raj Thackeray wants a Modi-mukt Bharat, and is shooting from Congress-NCP shoulder


Modi’s adopted village

Another issue that Thackeray has highlighted is the condition of Nagepur, a village adopted by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in Uttar Pradesh under the Saansad Adarsh Gram Yojana.

“The other day I told you about Harisal. Digital village. The residents don’t even know what’s going on there. PM said every MP should adopt one village and improve it. Let’s see Modi’s adopted village,” Thackeray said at a rally in Raigad last week.

This was followed by a documentary where villagers of Nagepur complain about shoddy drainage and polluted well water.

An MNS leader said the documentary was made by a television news channel and was available in the public domain.

‘Baramati’s parrot

BJP leaders have criticised Thackeray for being “Baramati’s parrot” — a reference to NCP chief Sharad Pawar’s home town. In response, Thackeray has in his speeches highlighted Modi’s change of tack when it comes to Pawar.

He plays two separate videos, one of Modi criticising Pawar before the 2014 polls, and the other of the PM heaping praises on the same leader after 2014.

At Monday’s Mumbai rally, Thackeray spoke about how he had foreseen that PM Modi will create a “war-like situation” closer to the elections, and that the government let the Pulwama attack happen despite having information about it.

Ahe ka re ti notice? Dakhav (Do you have the notice? Show it),” Thackeray said, pointing at the person operating the audio-visuals. A scanned copy of a letter immediately popped on the screen.

This was followed by a tile of photographs of Modi on every single day for a week after the Pulwama attacks on 14 February, laughing and attending inaugurations.

Reaction to his rallies

Some political watchers say Thackeray is performing the role of an opposition better than the opposition, while others say his activities are white noise and will have no impact on the elections.

Either way, the leader, whose 13-year-old party is now near decimation, has managed to keep himself relevant yet again, without fielding a single candidate.

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10 COMMENTS

  1. I did not have opportunity to listen to speeches of Raj Thackeray, except in bits and pieces. That he is an effective orator is given. However, not all the facts included by him in his speech are factual. In yesterday’s speech, which I heard for a few minutes he was criticising the government for obtaining interim dividend from RBI. This is a half baked allegation. Yes, with the interim dividend of zRs.28000 crore, the total surplus transferred this year is Rs.68000 crore. In 2016-17 , amount of above Rs.65000 crore was transferred. RBI paying interim dividend to Government is not unusual. Raj made it appear as if a great fraud has taken place and the Goverment is looting the RBI. In fact, a panel headed by Vimal Jalan, ex- Governor of RBI is examining the issue whether RBI is over-capitalised. Rakesh Mohan, an eminent Central Banker is a member of the panel. So, the criticism is totally misplaced. Another example is that Raj was citing an article written C. Christine Fair on the Pulgama attack, wherein he said that Ms.Fair has stated that Pakistani ISI will be benefitted due to it. Thus implying some kind of tacit understanding between the ISI and Modi with further hidden allegation that Modi himself arranged the Pulgama strike killing our own soldiers. Now, if one reads the entire article written by Christine Fair, which was published on BBC Marathi website, she had never mentioned anything like that. In fact, she had not put any blame on Modi whatsoever. After listening to such kind of utter nonsense from Raj, I stopped listening to his speeches, till yesterday I accidentally heard his criticism about RBI paying interim dividend to government. This shows very limited intellectual ability of Raj Thackeray, notwithstanding his oratorial skill, to grasp basic national issues. In any case, he has insignificant place in national politics, all he wants is some recognition in the state politics. Now it is up to the Marathi speaking how far to take him seriously.

  2. Raj saheb is absolutely doing write bay making people aware about fact of Modi goverment. How they are fooling people of this country
    He is saving democracy of this country all people who wants democracy should elect party which secure our democracy and our fundamental rights.
    And issue of raj saheb expenses are not arise every body has right to speak its only require peaker and skreen people eger to come and love to listen him they doesnt require any payment. Those are asking expenses are paying and dustributing money to attend them thats why they may require huge amount for compeign.

  3. It was only Rahul Gandhi who was exposing the falseness of Modi-c Shah claims of developments. But now Thackeray is doing it more effectively and emphatically than even Rahul. Unfortunately he happened to be another leader of another organization working as divisive force to disintegrate the Country. However, he is giving the present Rulers of Maharashtra and at Center nightmares.

  4. Seems like ThePrint is getting sleepless nights after 3 phases r over. The voting percentage shows dat if 2014 was a wave 2019 will b tsunami.
    Wait till 23rd May 2pm n all propaganda news will vanish like anything with the tsunami.
    Modi doesnt even care about Raj Thackeray as he doesnt feel like mentioning him in any interviews or his rallies. Every Marathi manoos too knows dat he isnt worth speaking on.

    • If ‘every Marathi manoos knows that he isn’t worth speaking on’ then why are thousands of people attending his rallies?
      Let news media and journalists do their job instead of poking your political preferences as predictions.

  5. Is it necessary to field candidature then you are free to criticise in which Constitution it is written.If any one propogate nota cannot he arranged public meeting On the contarary the opposition should have adopted this method but they are brainless idea starved that’s why chaiwalla out smarts them.

  6. Forget about reactions or outcome, at least he and his team doing some home work. When Modi visited Hyderabad during Ivanka ‘s visit, the TS government spruced up the road used by Ivanka and Modi. PM was all praise for KCR /KTR without realising that none of them have visited places beyond Hussain Sagar in Secunderabad and other are to get real pictures. It is same what Fadnavis attempting to window dress. Our leaders are good in window dressing.

  7. Raj Thackeray is a charismatic figure, an effective orator, in the mould of Balasaheb. He is making an impact with his speeches. The question the Congress – NCP need to be asking themselves is, Why have they been so sluggish in the opposition space, with their LoP in the Vidhan Sabha in bed with the government long before his son crossed over. Shri Prithviraj Chavan having served in the PMO and then as CM, could have crisscrossed the state, highlighting issues pertaining to both Centre and state of which he has much deeper knowledge.

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