Raj Thackeray-led Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) suffered a body blow today with six of its seven corporators in the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation joining the Shiv Sena, with which the MNS founder had parted ways in 2005. The party, set up in 2006, has been floundering after tasting initial success. MNS had 27 corporators after the 2012 BMC elections. The number dwindled to 7 in the 2017 polls, and is now reduced to just one after today’s dramatic development. Similarly, the party’s tally in the Maharashtra Legislative Assembly has come down from an impressive 13 after the 2009 polls to just one MLA after the 2014 elections. The party’s fortunes, which were on the upswing after it came to power in the Nashik Municipal Corporation in 2012, declined in the next polls, with many of its corporators in the north Maharashtra city quitting ahead of the polls.
Now, there are just five MNS corporators in Nashik–three in Pune and one in Pimpri civic bodies, once considered pockets of influence of the 11-year-old party. MNS, which advocated jobs for “sons of soil”, created ripples on the political scene with its violent agitation against North Indian migrants in 2008, during which its workers beat up candidates from northern parts of the country appearing for the all-India Railway Recruitment Board entrance exam for the western region in Mumbai. Despite getting some mileage in the 2009 Assembly election, Raj Thackeray’s party has been on the decline since the 2014 Assembly election, with many top leaders jumping the ship.
The MNS played spoilsport for the Shiv Sena in the 2009 Lok Sabha election by dividing votes of Marathi-speakers in Mumbai, contributing to the defeat of all six candidates of the Shiv Sena-BJP alliance in the city. The MNS was established in 2006 for “securing the rights and interests of Marathi manoos” after Shiv Sena supremo Bal Thackeray anointed his youngest son Uddhav as executive president, sidelining nephew Raj Thackeray. Seeking to grow his party, Raj Thackeray went hammer and tongs against North Indian migrants, accusing them of stealing jobs from native youths. As recently as this week, MNS activists went on a rampage in Sangli’s Kupwad industrial area, thrashing migrant workers alleging that jobs rightfully belonging to locals were being taken over by “outsiders”.