Mumbai, March 11: The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) Tuesday attempted to mollify its oldest ally Shiv Sena, following a political crisis triggered by Maharashtra Navnirman Sena’s (MNS) decision to support Narendra Modi as prime minister. BJP general secretary in-charge of Maharashtra Rajiv Pratap Rudy rushed to Mumbai to meet Shiv Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray late Tuesday evening along with other senior leaders.
“Uddhav is an esteemed leader and the Shiv Sena is a very critical partner of the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) … We are proud to have him as our partner,” Rudy said shortly before entering Uddhav Thackeray’s residence in Bandra east to meet him. “Shiv Sena is our old and trusted alliance … I shall discuss certain issues that have come up with him … The NDA, with all its allies will get more than 300 seats in the Lok Sabha elections,” Rudy said, praising Uddhav before mediapersons.
This morning, state BJP chief Devendra Fadnavis called on Uddhav following open demands by some Shiv Sainiks to break the saffron alliance. The mood in the Shiv Sena soured after MNS chief Raj Thackeray last Sunday announced support for Modi without joining either the NDA or the five-party saffron “Grand Alliance” in the state. He also announced the putting up of MNS candidates against Shiv Sena nominees except in Pune.
Uddhav spoke out his mind this afternoon when he charged his estranged cousin Raj of attempting to garner votes by capitalising on Modi’s name. “They are deliberately trying to mislead the people by extending support to Modi … But, the Marathi votes are with Shiv Sena,” Uddhav remarked.
Targeting ally BJP at a media conference, he demanded to know “whether they are following the path of Aam Aadmi Party chief Arvind Kejriwal?” “The BJP must clarify who is authorised in Maharashtra to take decisions? Is it (Nitin) Gadkari who goes around talking to the media, or (Gopinath) Munde? At present, it seems to be treading the path of Kejriwal, who after damning the Congress, formed a government with its support in Delhi,” Uddhav said.
Citing another example of former prime minister Chandrashekhar who took Rajiv Gandhi’s support to form the government, Uddhav asked whether the BJP would follow suit and take Congress support — “if that happens, then what is the difference between us and them?” “We (Shiv Sena) took care of them (BJP) in all crises, but now it seems that they feel they are a notch above us … I will talk to Rajnath Singh and also ask Rudy who actually runs the party in the state …” Uddhav added.
Earlier Tuesday, in an attempt to defuse the crisis, senior BJP leaders, including Singh and Modi, spoke to Uddhav and reassured him about continuing the alliance with Shiv Sena. The Shiv Sena has toughened its stance vis-a-vis the BJP after Gadkari openly wooed Raj and sought his support for the BJP and Modi, and asked him not to contest the 2014 Lok Sabha elections.
Raj played his cards deftly by supporting Modi and putting up Lok Sabha candidates against only Shiv Sena nominees, except in Pune. An embarrassed BJP, though welcoming MNS support to Modi, urged Raj to extend support to the “Grand Alliance” and NDA candidates.