BJP seeks to explain away overtures to MNS

With the Shiv Sena making veiled threats of breaking ranks, the Bharatiya Janata Party quickly moved into damage control mode and sought to explain away its overtures to the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena. By Tuesday night, the BJP’s prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi telephoned Shiv Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray to reassure him that the alliance remained strong and would contest the polls together, BJP sources said.

Before Mr. Modi’s call, State BJP president Devendra Fadnavis and party general secretary Rajiv Pratap Rudy visited Uddhav Thackeray to allay his apprehensions of a secret pact between the BJP and the MNS.

Mr. Thackeray demanded an explanation from the BJP after MNS leader Raj Thackeray declared his support for Mr. Modi.

He warned the BJP not to take the alliance for granted.

“Are you willing to take support from the party which will be contesting against you? Is there no difference between you and Arvind Kejriwal who took the support of the Congress to form the government in Delhi?” Mr. Thackeray asked the BJP at a press conference.

While Mr. Thackeray said the saffron combine would remain intact for the elections, he also issued the warning: “I can take any decision at any time.” He rebuked the BJP saying, “Is this a television show? Are we going to do anything just to gain power?”

The allies have been working at cross purposes after BJP leader Nitin Gadkari met Raj Thackeray last week to request him not to contest the polls to avoid splitting the Maratha chauvinist vote.

On Sunday, Raj Thackeray declared his party would contest the elections but support Mr. Modi as Prime Minister.

This led to speculation on a secret understanding between the MNS and the BJP. The Shiv Sena and MNS are direct political rivals.

“The BJP leadership must also clarify who is handling the party activities in Maharashtra. I am waiting to hear from Rajnath Singh,” Mr. Thackeray said, referring to Mr. Gadkari’s meeting with the MNS chief.

Meanwhile, the BJP backed down with Mr. Rudy saying, “Sena is our oldest and most trusted ally. We will face the elections together.” He made it clear that apart from Mr. Fadnavis no person is authorised to take any decision in Maharashtra.

Shiv Sena threat
Does the BJP's scramble to mollify Uddhav underline coalition compulsions?
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No
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