Congress-NCP succeeds in dividing Marathi vote bank

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Mumbai, Oct 21 (UNI) The ruling Congress-NCP in the state appeared to have at last succeeded in dividing the Marathi vote bank with Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) leader Raj Thackeray steadily wooing the loyal Shiv Sainiks to his fold.

Political observers here feel that the ruling combine had allowed Mr Thackeray to make hard hitting statements with the sole motive to divide the Marathi vote bank of shiv sena, with the general and Assembly elections due next year.

Maharashtra's political scene is dominated by two major alliances with the Congress forging tie up with the NCP and the BJP and Shiv Sena having a strong alliance. The gap between the two alliances in the State Assembly is not very big.

Political analysts feel that the NCP Congress alliance was keen to ensure that the emerging force of Bahujan Samaj Party led by Uttar Pradesh Chief Minsiter Mayawati could pose a threat to them in the state and to negate this impact, it allowed Raj Thackeray to make such statements.

Tthe Congress had in 1966, played similar tactics when Bal Thackeray formed Shiv Sena to raise a banner against South Indians in Mumbai. Congress used Shiv Sena to reduce the stronghold of Communists in Mumbai then.

Now the alliance found Raj Thackeray a good foil to counter their political opponents and allowed him to target the north Indians, analysts feel.

In February, the MNS leader was arrested for a few hours when North Indian taxi and autorickshaw drivers were attacked. At that time also Raj Thackeray had made statements referring to north Indians and even superstar Amitabh Bachchan.

After that, Raj was issued a gag order for a brief period to prevent him from making any provocative statements that could vitiate the atmosphere. Recently, he once again took on the Bachchan family when Jaya Bachchan said that she preferred to speak in Hindi and not in Marathi as she was from Uttar Pradesh.

Raj Thackeray immediately gave a boycott call for all the products endorsed by Bachchans and their films. The matter was settled after Amitabh Bachchan apologised. The MNS chief had time and again raised the issue of north Indian dominance in Railway and while he was in Shiv Sena his supporters had attacked the north Indians when they had come here for taking the examination.

Similar incident was repeated on October 19 during the Railway Recruitment Board's examination. Realising that Shiv Sena is losing ground, several Shiv Sainiks also joined the agitation alleging the advertisements of the vacancies in Railways did not appear in Marathi newspapers.

UNI JM VK AKJ SB ND1818

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