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Raj Thackeray. (File)

The Raj Thackeray-led Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) on Sunday made it clear that the party would not contest the upcoming Lok Sabha elections. There were indications in the last few weeks that the NCP was keen on having Thackeray on board as part of a greater Opposition front against the BJP-Sena combine despite objections from the Congress.

“Everyone please take note that MNS has decided not to contest Lok Sabha 2019 elections. Rest will be discussed on March 19,” a press statement issued by the MNS said.

In the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, the party had fielded nine candidates, with all of them losing their deposits. From then on, the party’s electoral prospects have taken a nosedive.

Even in the subsequent Maharashtra Assembly elections, MNS managed to win only one seat out of the 250 it contested. However, last week the lone MNS legislator from Junnar Assembly constituency in Pune district Sharad Sonawane joined the Shiv Sena. Click here for more election news

While Thackeray had declared his support to Narendra Modi during the 2014 poll campaign, he has since become a bitter critic of the PM and has spared no opportunity to target him.

Despite state Congress president Ashok Chavan saying “any political understanding” with the MNS was not in the party’s “broader interest”, the NCP had pointed that the Raj Thackeray-led party can wean away some of the Shiv Sena’s traditional Marathi vote bank in urban belts.

In February, Thackeray held discussions with NCP leader and Maharashtra’s former deputy chief minister Ajit Pawar on being a part of the Opposition’s alliance. To get MNS on board, the NCP had even offered to surrender one seat (Kalyan) from its own quota.