Raj Thackeray’s exit from the Sena in 2006, and the subsequent launch of Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) meant the new party could eat into the Shiv Sena’s vote bank.
The impact of Raj’s MNS was exaggerated in the 2007 Mumbai civic polls and despite higher expectations, the party had managed to win only 7 seats. Its real impact was only seen in the 2009 Assembly polls in which Shiv Sena received one of the worst drubbings in Mumbai since 1996, as MNS bagged six seats while Shiv Sena was reduced to mere four.
In the 2009 Assembly polls Shiv Sena’s overall tally was 44, which was 18 less than the previous elections. “Several leaders quit Shiv Sena over the years, however only Raj was perceived as the one who could carry on the mantle of Bal Thackeray. The 2009 elections results only reaffirmed this image of Raj as the heir apparent of Bal Thackeray,” said an MNS leader.
However, the MNS leader cautioned that there would not be any impact of Thackeray’s demise evident in the immediate future. “The next elections in the State are two years away. By then emotional fervour that is now being witnessed after Thackeray’s demise would have subsided. There would be some exodus from Shiv Sena to MNS and the NCP,” said the MNS leader.
However, Shiv Sena leaders do not think that Uddhav would face any challenge in steering the party in the absence of his father. “Officially Uddhav has been handling the party for the last 8 years and he has been doing it ably. Despite the exit of Narayan Rane in 2005 and Raj in 2006, he has kept the party floating. The MNS did damage our prospects in Assembly polls, however despite all the odds, Uddhav is leading a party that has 44 MLAs, 15 MPs in the Parliament and several civic bodies under its control,” said a senior Shiv Sena leader and MLA. Though there were talks about a pact between the Shiv Sena and MNS, nothing seemed to work out.