Defection of MNS corporators to Shiv Sena shakes up Maharashtra’s politics3 min read . Updated: 23 Oct 2017, 11:51 AM IST
The defection of six Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) corporators in the BMC to the Shiv Sena has opened up several political possibilities in Mumbai politics
Mumbai: The defection of six Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) corporators in the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) to the Shiv Sena has opened up several political possibilities.
While it has helped the Shiv Sena hedge against a possible bid by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) to install its mayor at the BMC, the impact of this development may not be confined to the Mumbai politics only, functionaries from BJP, Shiv Sena, MNS, and Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) say.
On 13 October, six of the total seven MNS corporators at BMC left the party and joined Shiv Sena, whose chief Uddhav Thackeray justified their induction saying they originally belonged to his party. But MNS chief and Uddhav’s estranged cousin Raj Thackeray said he would “never forget what Uddhav has done" and that the Sena would be his “number one enemy henceforth".
The Shiv Sena tally before the defection was 85 and it has now gone up to 91. BJP’s tally is 83 in the 227-member BMC. The MNS now has a lone corporator.
A senior BJP leader, who did not want to be named, said the MNS corporators had approached BJP before they went to the Shiv Sena but Maharashtra chief minister Devendra Fadnavis was not in favour of admitting them. “Fadnavis told them that ‘we did not want to be seen as engineering defection in the MNS’. It would have been silly for us to anger both Shiv Sena and MNS. We are already fighting turf battles with Shiv Sena and it makes sense to keep MNS as a possible ally against Shiv Sena," said the BJP leader. He said the Shiv Sena had made “a terrible strategic mistake" by inducting the MNS corporators.
“Uddhav Thackeray has done this at a time when Raj is trying to stage a comeback. This shows Uddhav as a petty politician who would poach members from a party which is already weak and which has a similar political ideology. When he should have ignored MNS, Uddhav has infused life into Raj’s party and given him a credible reason to hit back whenever he gets an opportunity," the BJP leader said. He said the Sena had lost the moral authority now to attack BJP too, if the latter poached legislators from elsewhere in future. “Everything becomes fair game now. We are constantly in talks with some 30 MLAs from Congress, NCP, and Shiv Sena, who want to join the BJP. We are not obsessed with Mumbai politics like Uddhav and we will do all it takes to push the Sena to the fringes all over Maharashtra," he said.
An MNS member and strategist, who requested anonymity, said Raj Thackeray had received an “unexpected surge of sympathy and goodwill" when he was least expecting it. “Forget the number game at BMC. Look at the bigger picture. Uddhav has shown himself to be obsessively interested in Mumbai when the Shiv Sena is losing territorial fights with the BJP all over Maharashtra including Marathwada where the Sena had made inroads before the BJP. In the process, Uddhav has exposed himself to the renewed challenges from the BJP and MNS," the MNS member said.
A senior NCP leader said the Shiv Sena was not reading the various election results in Maharashtra properly. “Shiv Sena has virtually celebrated Congress party’s big win in Nanded just because the BJP lost but it has failed to take notice of the nearly six-fold increase in BJP’s vote-share. Shiv Sena does not seem alarmed by the drop in its vote-share and by the communally polarised voting. As against the Muslim vote in Nanded which almost entirely went to the Congress, the BJP -- and not Shiv Sena -- got the better part of the Hindu vote. This should be alarming for the Sena which in the 1980s made gains in Marathwada due to Hindutva politics," said the NCP leader, requesting anonymity.