MUMBAI: In a significant political development, the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) will contest the October 21 state Assembly elections, party President Raj Thackeray announced here on Monday.
"We will contest the Assembly elections and shall also win. The candidates and the seats on which we shall contest will be announced in the next couple of days," Thackeray said amidst thunderous applause at a meeting of the party leaders and office-bearers.
The cousin of ruling alliance member Shiv Sena President Uddhav Thackeray and nephew of the late Bal Thackeray, Raj Thackeray (52) had quit the party in 2006 and formed the MNS the same year.
Though the exact number of seats the MNS will contest is not clear as yet, following a meeting in the MIG Club at Bandra on Monday afternoon, party sources indicated that it may be around 125 seats. It is also not known if the party will consider putting up a candidate in Worli, from where Raj Thackeray's nephew Aditya Thackeray will contest his maiden election.
The party has kept mum so far on its possible pre-poll tie-ups with other parties or alliances, though party leaders claim they would win sufficient numbers to emerge as the 'king-maker' in case the other two major alliances fail to get the majority.
The MNS is likely to put up candidates mostly in urban centres like Mumbai, Thane, Palghar, Nashik and Pune and the campaign will be kicked off with a public rally here on October 5.
It may be recalled that Raj Thackeray, also a noted cartoonist, had catapulted to fame in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections campaign when he attacked the ruling BJP-led NDA government at the Centre with his famous "Laav Re Video" (Play The Video) at over a dozen crowded public meetings even as his party was not contesting the elections.
Later, in August, he was summoned by the Enforcement Directorate (ED) for questioning in an alleged case of financial irregularities in one of his business ventures, along with his other partners.
The ED is investigating alleged irregularities pertaining to loans and investments of over Rs 4.50 billion by the crisis-hit IL&FS in Kohinoor CTNL Infrastructure Company, which is developing the Kohinoor Square complex in Dadar.
While Raj Thackeray had exited from that project, it was later handled by Unmesh Joshi, son of senior Shiv Sena leader Manohar Joshi, a former state CM and former Lok Sabha Speaker. With the MNS' entry into the poll fray, the state electorate has a plateful of choices before them besides the two main ruling and opposition fronts.
These include the formidable ruling combine of Bharatiya Janata Party-Shiv Sena, whose formal partnership is likely to be announced shortly, the opposition Congress-Nationalist Congress Party alliance, the Prakash Ambedkar-led Vanchit Bahujan Aghadi, besides other local and state parties, or pressure groups like the Vidarbha Sangharsh Samiti.