The Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) led by Raj Thackeray on Sunday announcement in a statement that it will not contest the Lok Sabha elections 2019.
There were speculations that Thackeray had a telephone conversation with Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) chief Sharad Pawar, with the former stating his main target was Assembly polls. According to an MNS leader, Thackeray said he had no interest in the Lok Sabha elections, but offered all his support to the Opposition parties led by the Congress-NCP combine.
The MNS is struggling to stay relevant in the state politics. An MNS leader said party president Thackeray would make his political position clear on March 19 in a public meeting, and guide the party cadres. The Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS), founded in 2006 by Thackeray after he fell out with Shiv Sena patriarch and his uncle Bal Thackeray, reached its zenith in 2009 assembly elections when it won 13 out of total 288 seats. The party was also said to be responsible for defeat of Shiv Sena candidates in Mumbai and its metropolitan region, apparently due to the division of Marathi votes.
However, the party lost the momentum gradually. Though it never won a Lok Sabha seat, in 2014 elections it was blown away during the Narendra Modi wave. In the assembly elections held that year, the MNS won only one seat in Maharashtra. Recently, that lone MLA from Junnar in Pune district has joined the Shiv Sena. In the Bruhanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC)elections held in 2017, the tally of MNS was reduced to seven seats. In October, 2017, six of its corporators defected to Shiv Sena, thus taking its representation down to one seat.
"MNS chief Raj Thackeray will make his political line clear on Tuesday," said the MNS leader. Ahead of Lok Sabha elections next month, the MNS was trying hard to piggyback the Congress-NCP alliance but was cold shouldered by the Congress, which opposes the violent "Marathi manoos" politics of the Raj Thackeray-led party. The Sharad Pawar-led NCP had also reportedly offered its support to MNS candidate in Kalyan Lok Sabha constituency, but the party decided not to contest the elections. Election to all 48 Lok Sabha seats in Maharashtra would be held in four phases between April 11 and April 29.
(With PTI inputs)