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MNS: Old Sena in new bottle
Today, MNS stands on cross roads as it is evolving itself from the nascent state to an established party. The Shiv Sena too began as a party of pro-Marathi manoos before it became the party of anti-South Indians and later the party of anti-Muslims.
MAHARASHTRA NAVNIRMAN Sena (MNS) chief Raj Thackeray is a perhaps the best media manager. He kept unusually mum initially after Harshavardhan Jadhav, his MLA from Kannad, was beaten up mercilessly in Ellora after Jadhav attacked the cop. While reporters eagerly awaited his response, Thackeray waited for an opportunity and heightened the excitement of the Marathi press. And finally he simply announced a rally in Aurangabad to express his view on the episode.

There was so much anticipation to Raj’s speech that both the local crowd and the local news media wanted to listen it live. While the crowd flocked the ground, the entire Marathi news channels aired the rally live - giving them perhaps the best TRP since the Dombivali - Kalyan election rallies.

The result was a record breaking gathering at the venue. But strange as it may seem, the response to this rally must have given sleepless nights not to the Congress NCP but to the Sena- BJP. The Alliance has a virtual monopoly in the Aurangabad Municipal Corporation (AMC) since last 25 years. And if this event is a harbinger of MNS’s big bang entry into the city and district, both Sena and BJP have more pondering to do keeping their base intact in the region.

The MNS is not only getting highlighted in media but is on a spree in its attempt to dislodge the rule of Shiv Sena from various Municipal Corporations and local bodies. It’s interesting to note that while MNS targeted Shiv Sena bastions such as Kalyan - Dombivli, Navi Mumbai and Aurangabad and the Mumbai university Senate, the party pulled out of local elections from Kolhapur - the NCP-Congress bastion.

Aurangabad rally saw Raj Thackeray launching his most acerbic attack yet on Home Minister R.R. Patil, Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan and his deputy Ajit Pawar. However he neither spoke of Shiv Sena nor the renaming of Aurangabad to Sambhaji Nagar done a week ago by the Sena BJP in the AMC. On the other hand, he accused the NCP and Congress of playing caste-politics in Pune over Dadoji Konddev case.
Raj, surprisingly, chose not to hold a rally in Pune to expose NCP-Congress ‘gameplan’ and instead spoke of statues issue in Aurangabad.

Today, MNS stands on cross roads as it is evolving itself from the nascent state to an established party. The Shiv Sena too began as a party of pro-Marathi manoos before it became the party of anti-South Indians and later the party of anti-Muslims. Sena never grew to the extent to really pose any challenge to the Congress or NCP at state level. Bal Thackeray too drew huge crowds in rallies but hardly translated into all out victory against Congress. Its 1995 victory would not have come without support of about four dozen congress rebels.

MNS too has attracted youths from all sections of the society with a new hope and alternative but he is turning out to be the B-Team of Shiv Sena with same ideology, same operating model and same autocracy – not to mention same leaders like Shishir Shinde and Bala Nandgaonkar. Raj and Shiv sena have exactly same views on all issues –whether it is migration into Mumbai,  Shivaji Maharaj and Dadoji Kondev’s relation, reverence to Babasaheb Purandare’s depiction of Shivaji Maharaj, or its opposition to the Sambhaji Brigade. MNS probably has same views of opposing affirmative actions against weaker sections like Shiv Sena does.

Keshav Sitaram Thackeray – known as Prabodhankar Thackeray, Raj Thackeray’s grandfather and Bal Thackeray’s father was a great writer and social reformer. Ironically his  views where totally opposite to the brand Sena - MNS has. In the book “Dharmachi Devale and Devalancha Dharm” (temples of religion and religion of temples), for instance, he attacks the priestly class for the discrimination against the Bahujans. His concept of Bahujan is completely forgotten by his descendents -  Shiv sena and MNS. His birth anniversary is never celebrated in a big bway y MNS or Sena lest his views and books get highlighted.

Organisations such as Sambhaji brigade are ideologically closer to the Prabodhankar Thackeray's views. The MNS needs to take a leaf out of his grandfather’s book and have a more rational socio-political ideology than simply carry his Uncle Bal Thackeray’s tried, tested and failed ideology.

Although Raj Thackeray’s shrill rhetoric is keenly followed by all Maharashtrians but his recent lewd statements are going to affect him in long run. MNS has been performing below expectations in recent times and his defeat by Shiv Sena in Kalyan-Dombivali and Mumbai Senate election has perhaps hurt Raj Thackeray deeply. His unprecedented outburst may be the result of this.

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bal thackeray
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