Mumbai, Mar 22 (IANS): Hours before the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) rally, banners proclaiming party President Raj Thackeray as a 'future CM' came up in the vicinity of Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Park in Dadar, here on Wednesday.
Raj, the estranged cousin of Shiv Sena (UBT) President and former Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray, is scheduled to address a large rally this evening for which thousands of party workers have started trooping in from Nashik, Pune, Raigad and parts of Mumbai.
Setting the tone for the meeting on Gudi Padwa -- the Maharashtra New Year, the MNS Dadar unit chief Laxman Patil has put up the banners conferring the status of 'Hindu Jannayak' and 'The future CM in the minds of the people of Maharashtra!'
The posters have been put up opposite the Shiv Sena Bhavan -- controlled by Uddhav Thackeray in what is considered a Shiv Sena (UBT) bastion.
The banners have started political tongues wagging, particularly since the 17-year-old MNS has only a lone MLA in the 288-member Assembly, despite being led by the fiery orator Raj Thackeray, the nephew of the legendary Balasaheb Thackeray.
With the entry of Raj Thackeray, 54, the wishful state 'future CM' platform has become more crowded and varied.
Earlier, there posters-banners heralding his nephew and Uddhav's son, Aditya Thackeray as a 'future CM', then Nationalist Congress Party's top leaders like Jayant Patil, Ajit Pawar and Supriya Sule seen straddling posters with a 'future CM' tag, and other leaders from different parties, including the ruling ally Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).
Political circles say the latest MNS manoeuvres are intended to create a strong 'pro-Hindutva' impression ahead of the upcoming civic election, and the Lok Sabha and Assembly polls in 2024.
Today's Gudi Padwa rally comes a month after the split in the Shiv Sena -- founded in June 1966 by the late Balasaheb Thackeray -- was formalised with the original party name-symbol going to the breakaway faction headed by Chief Minister Eknath Shinde.
Though Raj Thackeray has been hobnobbing with Shinde and BJP top leaders, he has not declared his political strategy on any alliance with them so far.