Maharashtra Navnirman Sena chief Raj Thackeray began a two-day tour of Nashik on Wednesday with the objective of rebuilding his party’s sagging fortunes ahead of the crucial civic body polls to be held in February 2022.
This is Mr. Thackeray’s third visit to the district in less than two months, signifying his intent on ‘recapturing’ the Nashik Municipal Corporation, which was once considered his party’s bastion.
Party sources said Mr. Thackeray and his son Amit Thackeray will be holding meetings with office bearers to chalk out a strategy for the upcoming polls.
The MNS chief has been concentrating on rebuilding the party in Pune as well, inaugurating a ‘war office’ earlier this year in Pune city.
The MNS had notched up impressive performances in the 2012 polls to the Pune and Nashik civic bodies at a time when Mr. Thackeray – Uddhav Thackeray’s estranged cousin – was considered a potent force in Maharashtra’s politics.
However, since then, internal bickering and haphazard campaigning have caused the party to implode.
Mr. Thackeray’s decline and fall commenced with the MNS’ twin debacles in the 2014 parliamentary and assembly elections which left the party in utter disarray, with the slide continuing through the 2017 civic polls as well as the 2019 state and national elections.
In 2012, the MNS held the key to the Nashik civic body, emerging on top after winning 40 of the 122 seats in the Nashik civic body. It had also popped a surprise in the 2012 civic polls in Pune, emerging as the second-largest party ahead of the Congress and the BJP.
In Nashik following their 2012 civic poll win, the MNS had embarked on a number of public work projects, only to see them in utter disarray five years later as the party withered away with the defection of a number of local leaders.
The party’s showing in the 2017 civic polls was abysmal, with only 13 MNS corporators being elected across 10 municipal corporations.
Currently, the party does not have a single MLA in the Maharashtra legislature.
After spiritedly campaigning – and failing miserably – against the BJP in the 2019 Lok Sabha election, the MNS was seen to be gravitating towards the saffron party subsequently. This was symbolized by Mr. Raj Thackeray’s adoption last year of a saffron flag incorporating Chhatrapati Shivaji’s royal seal or ‘Rajmudra’.
This change of ideological direction was motivated by an attempt to seize the vacant ‘Hindutva’ space in Maharashtra following the ideologically opposed alliance of Uddhav Thackeray’s Shiv Sena with Sharad Pawar’s Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) and the Congress in forming the MVA government to keep the BJP out of power in Maharashtra.