With Nitin Gadkari having quit as the president of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), will there be a change in the party's attitude towards Raj Thackeray and his Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS)?
State BJP leaders are wondering whether Rajnath Singh taking over as BJP head would change the equations in Maharashtra politics, not only within the party but also between parties. Political observers believe that with a leader from north India heading the party, it may become difficult for them to take MNS along to the next assembly election scheduled to be held in late 2014.
Gadkari and his close aides in Maharashtra, such as Opposition leader in legislative council Vinod Tawde, share a cordial relation with Raj.
The party has been warming up to the MNS even as Sena president Uddhav Thackeray got uneasy about the same. Significantly, the relation between Gadkari and Uddhav has always been strained. BJP’s hobnobbing with the MNS has been taken as the threat by the Sena and Uddhav had openly expressed his discontent over the same.
“After the developments at the national level, it may become difficult for us to join hands openly with the MNS as it would affect the party prospects in north India. It becomes difficult since the Gadkari successor happens to be from north India where the party is trying to improve its fortunes,” said a senior BJP leader, on condition of anonymity.
“We would always prefer the two Senas led by the Thackeray cousins coming together burying their differences and fighting the election as one party. Since this seems to be very difficult, we would prefer MNS to be a part of our combine, but the move will have to be very tactful,” said the leader.
Political analyst Prakash Bal, too, believes that siding with MNS would not be comfortable for the BJP as Raj is a ‘villain figure’ for the people in northern states. “After Rajnath taking over as the head of the party, the BJP will have to deal very carefully in Maharashtra. But I firmly believe that MNS will join the saffron combine post elections as there is a possibility of a fractured mandate in the coming assembly elections,” he said.