The Bharatiya Janata Party has distanced itself from the “political adventure” undertaken by former party president Nitin Gadkari, who met MNS chief Raj Thackeray on Monday and asked him not to field candidates in the Lok Sabha elections in order not to divide votes of Shiv Sena and BJP.
After holding closed-door parleys, state and central leaders of the party expressed displeasure over Gadkari’s “gameplan”, which it believes was an attempt to reassert himself on his home turf. The development has left many leaders in the state wondering if Gadkari had given a fresh lease of life to MNS, whose electoral prospects were not appearing too bright till now.
MNS leader Bala Nandgaonkar, however, dismissed Gadkari’s offer. “The formal decision on making public the list of candidates would be taken in a couple of days,” he said. State BJP president Devendra Fadnavis said: “As far as the BJP is concerned, we have pulled the curtains down on the developments. Moreover, Gadkari(ji) is a national leader who has explained the reasons for his meeting with Raj Thackeray. It would be inappropriate for us to further interpret their meeting.”
The Gadkari-Raj meeting, however, did not go down well with the Shiv Sena. Its spokesperson Sanjay Raut even said that such a meeting could affect the alliance. “It can affect the ‘Mahayuti’ (grand alliance) if a senior leader of the BJP meets Raj Thackeray or NCP chief Sharad Pawar,” Raut said in a statement.
BJP leader Vinod Tawde, however, said there was no reason for the Shiv Sena to “overreact”. “If the MNS had agreed not to contest, it would have helped both Sena and BJP candidates,” he said. Insiders indicated that Gadkari might have the consent of national party president Rajnath Singh, but prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi had been cautious ever since the MNS leader launched an attack on him at a public rally. Modi had also disapproved the violence unleashed by MNS workers on the toll collection issue.
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Organisational leaders in the state headquarters lamented that Gadkari’s “gameplan” had badly boomeranged and exposed the cracks within the party. “While it has helped in generating unrest in the Sena, it lends credence to the power tussle between Gadkari and Munde in the party,” said a leader.
However, Gadkari said on Tuesday: “I have confined myself to Delhi politics. My initiative to get MNS not to field Lok Sabha candidates is to enhance our tally in Maharashtra, since MNS still has a sizeable vote share. The division of votes would ultimately affect Sena and BJP.”