Why Raj Thackeray won't get the comeback he thinks he deserves

The MNS chief is trying make the issue of illegal hawkers his springboard to bounce back to relevance.

 |  3-minute read |   26-11-2017
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In a drastic image makeover exercise, Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) chief Raj Thackeray has adopted two things that were never part of his life before. He wakes up early and sweats it out in the gym for at least half an hour. He has removed the “spiritual” rings from his right hand.

Thackeray is trying to reinvent himself and his diminishing party at a time the opposition space is occupied by none another than his arch rival, Shiv Sena. But political observers believe that Raj may not succeed in what he is eyeing to achieve because he has woken up very late.

The September 26 stampede at Mumbai’s Elphinstone Road railway station gave Raj another opportunity to bounce back in politics. He led a march to the Western Railway’s headquarters, ordered his party workers to drive away illegal hawkers within 150 metres of a railway station, and tried to reoccupy a space in the hearts of Mumbaikars, like he had a decade ago.

Like all his other “drives”, the tirade against illegal hawkers also has a potential to win over Mumbaikars. But his low credibility and the weak party organisation are obstacles in Raj ruling the city’s streets again.

The September 26 stampede at Mumbai’s Elphinstone Road railway station gave Raj another opportunity to bounce back in politics. Photo: India TodayThe September 26 stampede at Mumbai’s Elphinstone Road railway station gave Raj another opportunity to bounce back in politics. Photo: India Today

He lost three precious years in coming out of the shadow of the party’s defeat in the 2014 elections, which raised questions on his party’s relevance. He believes the dejected MNS workers will get a new lease of life if they attract the media’s attention by attacking illegal hawkers. “My agitation is not a violation of any law,” Raj says. “In fact, the Supreme Court has banned illegal hawking. I’m insisting that the authorities abide by the SC ruling.”

The workers, however, are not overzealous. They feel the drive against illegal hawkers will not benefit the party to a large extent, because it cannot be a long-term programme. Raj stands accused of selling dreams without any substantial foundation. He argues that he has big plans for the city but needs absolute power to execute them.

Raj has acquired a dubious identity of “weak follower” in the past few years. He hasn’t followed up any issue or problem to its logical end. He has lost his credibility and relevance in state politics since he couldn’t take a firm stand on any issue he had touched, ranging from a ban on Pakistani artistes to joining hands with the Shiv Sena and forming a front against the BJP.

Apart from CM Devendra Fadnavis, Raj is the only leader under 50 who has mass appeal in the city. What he lacks is a good team of dedicated workers and seriousness on the core issues of development. He doesn’t have any plan for farmers, working class, women, students and industries. Unauthorised hawkers can give him publicity, but not an identity of a visionary, which he needs more than anything else.

Also read: Why Arun Shourie still thinks a united Opposition can burst the Modi balloon in 2019

Writer

Kiran Tare Kiran Tare @kirantare

The writer is senior associate editor, India Today.

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