Zee Media Bureau/Ritesh K Srivastava
Mumbai: While the BJP is desperately attempting to secure support of more and more political parties to ensure its victory in the coming Lok Sabha polls, its growing proximity with the Raj Thackeray led MNS has annoyed its old ally in Maharashtra - Shiv Sena.
Uddhav Thackeray-led Shiv Sena, which is reportedly upset with BJP`s attempt to win over Raj Thackeray`s MNS ahead of Lok Sabha polls, on Tuesday said that the latter is not required in the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) and assured that nobody can make a dent in its traditional Maratha vote bank.
Speaking to reporters, senior Shiv Sena leader Sanjay Raut said, “All doors are now closed for the MNS, there is no need for any negotiation with Raj Thackeray`s party, we do not require them in the NDA.”
Reacting to the reported meeting between former BJP chief Nitin Gadkari and Raj Thackeray yesterday, Raut warned, “If a senior leader from BJP supports Raj Thackeray or Sharad Pawar, it can affect our grand alliance.”
However, he reassured that the Shiv Sena-BJP combine will defeat Congress and NCP and will win 40 seats in the Lok Sabha polls in Maharashtra.
Reacting to speculations that the traditional Maratha votes of Shiv Sena will be divided if the MNS contests the next Lok Sabha polls, Raut said, “Marathi voters will always remain loyal to the Shiv Sena and no once can dare to snatch their support to us.”
The reactions from the Shiv Sena came hours after Gadkari`s meeting with Raj. where the BJP leader appealed to the MNS chief to abstain from contesting the Lok Sabha elections to avoid splitting the anti-Congress vote.
Earlier today, Shiv Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray also hit back on BJP, saying that the main opposition party faces a big communication problem.
Reacting to the Gadkari-Raj Thackeray meeting, the Shiv Sena chief wrote in party`s mouthpiece "Saamana", “There is a big communication gap within the BJP created by those praising Congress and NCP leaders.”
The Shiv Sena chief also expressed his displeasure to BJP chief Rajnath Singh over phone and summoned the state BJP chief over the matter.
Gadkari`s meeting with Raj triggered speculation that the saffron party is trying to win over the MNS chief into NDA for upcoming elections though the BJP leader said that there is no reason for Shiv Sena to be annoyed over it.
RPI (A) led by Ramdas Athawale, also an important constituent of the `Mahayuti` (grand alliance) led by BJP and Shiv Sena, said he would "welcome" Raj into the NDA-fold.
Gadkari, who is said to enjoy a good rapport with Raj Thackeray, met him at a suburban hotel in Mumbai, during which he reportedly asked the latter not to contest the Lok Sabha polls as it would divide votes of both Shiv Sena and the BJP.
MNS` high-pitch debut in 2009 elections had caused a large-scale division of Marathi votes ensuring the defeat of Shiv Sena candidates in Lok Sabha and assembly polls.
The development sent the political parties into a tizzy as Shiv Sena is a traditional bete noire of MNS and also an all-weather ally of BJP.
In the past also, the state BJP leadership had tried to woo Raj Thackeray but the efforts suffered a setback as Raj publicly criticised BJP`s PM candidate for "harping on" the Gujarat model of development and skirting the mention of Shiv Sena supremo late Bal Thackeray during his rally in Mumbai.
Speaking to the media later, Gadkari said, "I discussed with the MNS chief the ways to get rid of the Congress government."
"There is no reason for Uddhav Thackeray to be annoyed over my meeting Raj...I meet everybody including Congress people," he said.
Asked if Sharad Pawar-led NCP will come over to NDA after the elections, Gadkari said anything can happen in cricket and politics. "We are confident of getting a clear majority on our own," the BJP leader added. When contacted, Shiv Sena spokesperson Sanjay Raut said "we have nothing to say on the meeting".
Gadkari had last month attended the ground-breaking ceremony of Goda Park, which is said to be the dream project of Raj Thackeray, in Nashik where MNS is at helm with the support of BJP.
Adding credence to the speculations, Athawale said "we would welcome Raj Thackeray if he joins the Maha-yuti".
Interestingly, Athawale had in the past steadfastly opposed entry of MNS in the NDA-fold.
The `Mahayuti` comprises five opposition parties, including Raju Shetti`s Swabhimani Shetkari Sanghatana and Mahadeo Jankar`s RSP, besides BJP, Shiv Sena and RPI (A).