With former Bharatiya Janata Party national president Nitin Gadkari stepping in to defuse the situation, his party and the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) seemed to have a reached a truce on Wednesday.
As the relation between the two parties had turned bitter following verbal duels between MNS chief Raj Thackeray and BJP leaders, Gadkari — who shares cordial relations with Thackeray — visited the latter’s Shivaji Park residence over dinner on Tuesday night.
According to sources, Gadkari advised Thackeray to tone down his attack on the BJP. The duo emerged from Thackeray’s residence three hours later, refusing to speak to the media on what transpired in the meeting.
But, the outcome was visible on Wednesday. Leaders from both the parties refrained from targeting each other.
Sources said Gadkari, who has always encouraged friendship between the BJP and the MNS, did not want Thackeray to turn into an enemy. Soon after he became the state BJP president, Gadkari built a good rapport with Thackeray, with sights set on getting MNS on board in the future.
“Gadkari thinks that the Sena-BJP alliance cannot win power with the MNS eating into our votes. At a time when people are not happy with the current government and the elections are a year away, it makes no sense to let the MNS split votes,” said a key BJP leader.
Gadkari was unhappy when Thackeray took names of his aides -- MP Ajay Sancheti and legislator Mitesh Bhangadia -- in connection with the irrigation scam, said sources.
“The broad understanding was that the two parties can criticise each other, but not to the extent of causing political damage to the other side,” sources added.
“Besides, Gadkari also wanted to send a message across to his own party and allies that he still calls the shots in the state BJP,” said the leader.
At the meeting, Thackeray criticised Opposition leader in the Assembly Eknath Khadse for ignoring the MNS on the floor of the lower house. Gadkari assured Thackeray that he would take up the issue with his party.
Political experts say that BJP sees Thackeray as their future ally.
“The BJP knows that Thackeray can damage their prospects and want to join hands with him,” said Prakash Bal, a political analyst.
The spat between the BJP and the MNS had resulted in blunt attacks from both sides since Sunday. While Thackeray alleged that Khadse was hand-in-glove with the state, Khadse claimed that builders’ lobby was behind the MNS campaign.
The Shiv Sena, however, is not amused with the development.
“Thackeray has already done the damage. There is no need to pamper him,” said a Sena legislator.