A day after MNS workers put up a poster in Thane giving party chief Raj Thackeray the status of ‘Hindu Hriday Samrat’ (Emperor of Hindu Hearts), the latter strongly disapproved of the same. Thackeray was speaking in a meeting with his party functionaries ahead of the February 9 rally at Azad Maidan. While he strictly directed MNS members not to address him as ‘Hindu Hriday Samrat’, a title has been used only for Shiv Sena founder Balasaheb Thackeray. Incidentally, the poster also mentions that Raj Thackeray is the real inheritor of his uncle’s legacy.
Since the formation of the Maha Vikas Aghadi government, MNS and BJP have emerged as the principal opposition parties in the state. The fortunes of the MNS have plummeted in recent years and managed to secure just one seat in the 2019 Maharashtra Assembly elections. The party's growing tilt towards Hindutva comes at a juncture when the Sena is perceived to have compromised on its ideology for the sake of power. This came to the fore when the Sena failed to effectively respond to Rahul Gandhi's insult of freedom fighter Veer Savarkar. Moreover, the MNS chief's secret meeting with former Maharashtra CM Devendra Fadnavis as well as BJP MLA Ashish Shelar gave rise to speculations that both parties might come ideologically closer.
Raj Thackeray made his party's stance official at the party convention on January 23, the birth anniversary of Balasaheb Thackeray. He commenced his speech by saying- “My Hindu brothers and sisters”. Thereafter, he explained that the newly adopted saffron flag was his original choice at the time of forming the MNS. He also clarified that both the linguistic and the religious cause was equally dear to him. Seen as clear support to the National Register of Citizens, the MNS chief called for the ouster of Bangladeshi and Pakistani Muslims from India. He announced a protest rally at the Azad Maidan on February 9 in this regard. Taking an indirect dig at Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray, he observed, “I don't change my colours for the sake of government formation”.