Will Raj Thackeray eventually join hands with Shiv Sena?

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Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) chief Raj Thackeray roared again on Tuesday when he dismissed possibilities of his party allying with the Shiv Sena, now led by Uddhav Thackeray, the son of the late founder of the party, Bal Thackeray. Addressing a huge public rally at Kolhapur, the MNS chief said he had no plans to forge an electoral alliance with any party and would like to win Maharashtra all by himself.

Raj Thackeray's words clearly snubbed Uddhav who had said in an interview published in the Sena's official mouthpiece Saamna that anybody intending to join hands with his party was welcome to do so. Replying to the idea of merger between the two Senas, Uddhav had said that it needed to be replied by both him and Raj. "Can one clap with one hand?," he had asked.

Raj straightaway refuted the idea and said he had no such plans. Instead, he was touring the state with an aim of strengthening it more so that it can emerge into a stronger political force.

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MNS needs to rediscover itself but does it have the capacity?

Here strikes a problem. How does the MNS aspire to succeed politically? Does it have the organization and ideological foundation to strengthen its base outside Mumbai and in rural Maharashtra? Whenever Raj Thackeray speaks, it echoes what his late uncle used to preach during his heydays. Regional nationalism has been the cornerstone of the Thackerays' politics and urban economic misery primarily had given such brand of politics started by Bal Thackeray a space to breath fire. But what was an effective political tool in the 1960s will hardly work in 2013 and the Shiv Senas gradual losing its prominence towards the end years of Bal Thackeray proved it. The party had once come to power in the state but how much successful was it to establish itself as a force in rural Maharashtra?

The MNS, which was launched by Raj after Bal Thackeray announced Uddhav as his successor in the Sena, has not been able to show anything spectacular politically. The same bashing of north Indians has been its political capital but it is bound to get exhausted in some time. Bal Thackeray had also faced the same problem and had to rediscover the Sena in the light of anti-minorityism and nationalism after its tirade against non-Marathas gradually lost its edge. But by then, Bal Thackeray had become an icon and hence the USP of his own party. The MNS has no such icon to fall back on.

Raj Thackeray knows only one Sena will help his cause and it's not MNS

Raj Thackeray will be knowing the limitations of both today's Sena and MNS very well. No matter how much he criticizes the ruling Congress-NCP alliance, he will know that at the end of the day, the two Senas will only block each others' way in making any progress politically. The best foot that can be put forward if Raj aspires to play a big role in Maharashtra politics in future is to call for a merge between the two Senas.

The Shiv Sena is witnessing a fragile leadership in the post-Bal Thackeray days for a moderate and physically not-very-fit Uddhav is unlikely to take the party back to its height while the MNS will find it immensely challenging to survive along with the Sena. Raj Thackeray is the man who can carry forward his uncle's fiery legacy and he also knows it very well. But as he had said during a TV interview a few months ago, the two parties do not mean just the Thackerays. "A lot of people are involved in the party affairs and taking decision like reuniting is not an easy thing to do," he said. Tuesday's public overture of going alone is another example which shows that a political leader is a prisoner of his own doings. They can not be undone in a haste.

Won't be surprising if Raj joins Shiv Sena some day

But it won't be surprising if the same Raj Thackeray makes a U-turn in the near future and compel a weak leadership of the Sena to surrender before his terms and emerge as its supremo. It will be a tricky situation no doubt but Raj Thackeray is a shrewd politician. A couple of poll reverses and financial compulsion could make it difficult for the politically ambitious Raj to sustain his MNS while a void in the Sena leadership will give him an opportunity to redraw the strategy. If indeed Raj wants to develop Maharashtra on the lines of Narendra Modi's Gujarat, he would like to build on the platform laid down by his late uncle.

The U-turn, if ever taken by Raj Thackeray, will also be dedicated to the cause of the Maratha Manoos. The late Thackeray's last hope can yet come true. There is no doubt in that.

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