“I tune in to my television set every evening since past few days and if there is one thing I look forward to even more than a cricket match or a movie, it is the broadcast of a Raj Thackeray campaign rally” says a senior manager working with a private bank in Pune. His isn't an isolated case. In the past few weeks, millions have been watching Raj Thackeray's rallies on YouTube. If there is one face from the opposition side in Maharashtra which has been effectively able to counter the aggressive oratory and larger than life persona of Prime Minister Narendra Modi it is Raj Thackeray. What gives Raj this ammunition and this edge over any other opposition face in the state? There are several factors behind this.
The principal opposition party that is the Congress party in Maharashtra currenly seems quite disorganised. With its main leaders not Seeing Eye to eye and going out of the way to damage each other, the Congress seems like a headless chicken.
Congress’ main face in the state, Leader of the opposition in Maharashtra assembly Radhakrishna Vikhe Patil was caught by a national news channel this week campaigning for his son Sujay who has joined the BJP and is fighting the elections as BJP candidate. Another face of the Congress Ashok Chavan is being targeted by the BJP for his alleged involvement in the Adarsh scam which resulted in his resignation as state CM in 2010. Firebrand leader from Konkan Narayan Rane has already distanced himself from the Congress and got a Rajya Sabha seat with the help of the BJP. All these leaders now have no face left in the campaign. The biggest problem the Congress faces is that it has not been able to develop second line of leaders. This happened because the party has indulged in nepotism and has kept promoting sons or daughters of its own leaders who are not competent to lead the party.
Congress’ partner, the Nationalist Congress Party too faces a similar situation with none of its leaders looking convincing when they say that they should be voted back to power. At the state level there have been too many scams in which various faces of NCP were allegedly involved and some of them even charged formally.
Lack of fresh faces and young leadership (beyond established political families) and 15 years of antiincumbancy has pushed the Congress and NCP in a corner and people seem unsure if these parties can be trusted when they ask to be voted back to power.
On this backdrop Raj Thackeray now suddenly looks like the challenger who has a clean slate! A critic who has no stain on himself because he was never in power! Coupled with this Raj’s oratory skills, ability to mimic and entertain the crowds makes his rally an ideal draw. In addition Raj’s “have nothing to lose” approach makes him fearless and free to target the establishment. A senior Marathi poet compared Raj Thackeray’s current rallies against the BJP led NDA government to the speeches of Marathi literary legend P L Deshpande during the emergency era of Indira Gandhi. Its obvious that Raj is currenly able to galvanise the masses and hit hard against the NDA regime like no other leader in Maharashtra can.
Its obvious that Raj Thackeray is planning an alliance for the state assembly polls of 2019 to re-enter the assembly with a good number and his political make over visible right now convinces many that he might well be on the track to achieve that goal !