Raj Thackeray
MNS chief Raj Thackeray has launched scathing attacks on Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi Image Credit: Facebook

Dubai: His party may not be contesting the ongoing parliamentary polls in India, but Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) chief Raj Thackeray has been holding a number of rallies in the state of Maharashtra. No campaigner in the state or across India has targeted Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Bharatiya Janata Party president Amit Shah with as much creativity as Thackeray. He is using videos and “fact checks” to “expose” the Indian PM Narendra Modi’s claims.

Maharashtra has completed three out of four phases of the Lok Sabha (lower house in the Indian parliament) election polls.  The final phase is on April 29.

On Thursday, during a rally in Panvel, Mumbai, Thackeray said Prime Minister Narendra Modi was following in the footsteps of Adolf Hitler, asking voters to “decide between democracy and dictatorship”.

People are turning up in thousands at his rallies.

MNS is a nationalist far-right Indian political party based in the state of Maharashtra.

According to an article on the Indian newspaper Indian express, MNS leader Sandeep Deshpande said: “Normally so much is said that people tend to forgot what was promised in the past. Hence, we are going back to things Modi had said, the false claims made, and expose this using irrefutable proof like videos or news articles… Presenting facts in audio-visual format has a stronger impact.”

People seem to love Thackeray’s video rallies, especially the questions he is raising against the current government.

@abhijeetgaur9: “Whatever may be the reason but Mr Raj Thackeray is doing great service to the nation by questioning the five years tenure of Modi as PM. #JaayegaTohModiHi”

Referring to the public support the leader was getting, tweep @Deepak_k_selvam added: “Never thought that public will be this angry. Seriously, media is misleading people telling people are happy with current government. Look at the anger.”

And, @hemantogale tweeted: “Mammoth meeting of @RajThackeray at Panvel. Pin drop silence while he exposes Modi’s fake nomination video, explains Kapil Sibal’s sting or questions funds in BJP’s treasury. Unprecedented in recent political history of Maharashtra.”

Others tried to analyse Thackeray’s political move. Twitter user @harryrandhawa32 posted: “@RajThackeray will dent the Shiv Sena voter base mainly. Many fed up of the love-hate hypocrisy with BJP will move towards him in the state assembly elections. MNS has actually launched their state assembly campaign to dislodge BJP-SS and will form alliance with Cong-NCP.”

What is surprising is that those who support left, liberal political parties seem to be supporting Thackeray as he exposes Modi. Though his politics is confined to only one state, what he says is being avidly followed and debated across the country.

Tweep @waglenikhil wrote: “Nothing wrong in liberals supporting Raj Thackeray this election. Raj has become voice of anti-Modi brigade. Opposition leaders including Rahul failed to do that. Raj has occupied that space. Only time will tell if Raj has changed his stripes or not!”

@ParveenKader tweeted: “I would prefer watching @RajThackeray giving a speech to any channel or speaking live! He is honest, fearless and talks about the matter concerned! Every politician should learn how to speak [like] him! Respect! #RajThackeray

However, there is also a fair degree of scepticism about whether, and how much, Raj Thackeray has truly transformed himself into a mainstream politician with an inclusive mind-set.

According to the Indian news channel NDTV: “Ever since he broke away from the Shiv Sena and formed his own Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) in 2006, his politics has remained indistinguishable from his parent party on one crucial issue - Marathi-speaking people versus Outsiders. Because of the narrow-minded and often coercive methods his party used to espouse the ‘rights’ of the ‘Sons of the Soil’, Raj created a negative and unfriendly image for himself in the rest of India - especially in Hindi-speaking states. This was not liked even by many (including Marathi-speaking people) in Mumbai and Maharashtra.”