To keep votes intact, BJP bonds with Raj Thackeray

| Updated on: Mar 04, 2014
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The move is at the risk of annoying ally Shiv Sena

BJP’s former president Nitin Gadkari may have annoyed alliance partner Shiv Sena’s Uddhav Thackeray, by reaching out to his bête noire Raj Thackeray of the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS). But the BJP has indicated it will risk ruffling a few feathers in the larger bid to maximise gains in all critical States where it has a political presence.

Just as the BJP ignored sulking Bihar leaders such as Ashwini Chaube and CP Thakur to stitch up an alliance with Ramvilas Paswan’s Lok Janshakti Party (LJP), it is going to continue its dalliance with MNS even if it vexes Uddhav in Maharashtra.

Although Gadkari’s meeting with Raj at a central Mumbai hotel on Monday does not mean the latter is immediately joining the BJP’s grand alliance, it certainly indicates the two are doing business together.

The prospect of him joining the BJP’s alliance later in the year, around October, when elections are due for the Maharashtra Assembly, was not entirely omitted by the BJP leaders.

“The meeting was convened for the larger purpose of appealing to Raj Thackeray to not divide our core vote,” Maharashtra leader and BJP spokesperson Prakash Javdekar told Business Line .

There are about 10 Lok Sabha seats in the Mumbai, Pune and Thane region, where the MNS can split the BJP-Shiv Sena vote.

Among these, at least six seats actually belong to Shiv Sena.

But such is the acrimony between the two Thackeray cousins that Uddhav will not brook even outside support from Raj.

Sena’s complaint

The Shiv Sena chief reportedly lodged a protest with BJP President Rajnath Singh and summoned Maharashtra State BJP chief Devendra Fadnavis to complain in person about Gadkari’s meeting with Raj.

Writing in the Shiv Sena mouthpiece Saamna , he diagnosed the BJP as suffering from a “big communication problem”.

Simultaneously, Sena spokesperson Sanjay Rout issued a threat — “This (the meeting between Gadkari and Raj) can affect the mahayuti (grand alliance).” The BJP, however, was not going to be hemmed in by these trifling concerns. Nor did it seem to be vastly affected by the “danger to mahayuti”.

The party’s grand alliance in Maharashtra includes the Shiv Sena, the Republican Party of India and the Swabhimani Shetkari Sangathana. The prospect of Shiv Sena pulling out is remote despite the threats.

Accordingly, the BJP seemed determined to ensure it eliminates unnecessary divisions in its votes. Reaching out to Raj through his old comrade Gadkari was a step in this direction.

Big factor

“His (Raj’s) outside support helps the alliance in Mumbai North, Mumbai North East, Mumbai South, Mumbai North West, Pune, Thane and Nasik. A number of these seats belong to the Shiv Sena. The MNS is a big factor in all these seats. But if someone has a problem even in that, it really can’t be helped. We are here to win an election not hold his hand while he sulks,” said a BJP leader.

Published on March 04, 2014

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