With Shishir Shinde bowing out of the key post of general secretary of the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena, the party’s tumble from prestige is obvious again. A dawdling leadership hasn’t been able to arrest attrition, which was set off after its poor showing in the BMC elections — it has seven seats now, down from 28 in the 2012 civic polls.
Nor are party workers’ issues being addressed. A series of feedback meetings with the cadres held last month speaks volumes. It is perhaps because the party does not have a top layer anymore that the workers directed their angst at the second rung of the leadership — comprising Nitin Sardesai, Bala Nandgaonkar, Avinash Abhyankar and Shirish Sawant.
Their main charge is that the leaders are not accessible, and the party — which also saw a wipe-out in the Nashik civic polls, where it has been reduced to five seats from being the ruling party — is rudderless.
“We fought the elections on our own. Not one of these leaders came to us. This is the first time they are touring the shakhas in 12 years,” said an MNS functionary referring to the feedback meet. “We are completely directionless and devoid of ideas. There isn’t even an agenda. The party’s top leadership doesn’t take any decisions. Are we waiting for a complete wipe-out?” he said.
Political observers said that party chief Raj Thackeray is at the nadir of his political career and is staring at a total disintegration unless he reinvents himself and the party quickly.
Earlier this month Shishir Shinde, the firebrand leader who was once Raj’s close aide, wrote to him asking to be relieved as leader of the party.
While Shinde hasn’t quit the party, sources said that he was upset that he wasn’t consulted for the selection of candidate in Bhandup for the BMC election. He also skipped the MNS anniversary celebration this year. Shinde, formerly with the Shiv Sena, rose to fame after he dug up the pitch at Wankhende Stadium before an India-Pakistan cricket match. He shifted out of the Sena when the MNS was founded.
After the drubbing in the BMC polls, Raj had announced that his party would use “all possible ways” to win elections. “I relied more on my work and developmental projects but people have rejected it. The results of (recent) polls show the money power has won and development has lost,” Raj had said. But party functionaries said that nothing was done beyond speeches. “The same old coterie is clinging to power, calling the shots,” said a former MNS corporator.
According to senior leaders, the MNS may have to work out a political arrangement with the Shiv Sena, possibly a merger. But the Sena seems unwilling to do it. “We have got valuable and positive inputs from feedback meetings and are reviewing the feedback now. We will definitely incorporate these inputs and you will see positive changes in the party soon,” MNS leader Nitin Sardesai said, refusing to specify details of the feedback received.