Senior Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader LK Advani on Saturday declared party general secretary Gopinath Munde will be the chief minister of Maharashtra if the BJP-Shiv Sena alliance came to power in the forthcoming Assembly elections.
Addressing a mammoth rally of paddy growers from eastern Vidarbha in this tiny village of Bhandara district, the party's prime ministerial candidate took everybody by surprise when he said: "The alliance is sure to come to power in Maharashtra and you can trust Munde, as chief minister, to give you complete farm loan waiver, remunerative price for your produce including paddy and freedom from power outages."
He, however, clarified to the press after the rally that Munde was the party's choice for the top post in the state and will take the office only if BJP won more seats than Shiv Sena.
Advani expressed confidence about the party winning a clear majority in neighbouring Karnataka where polls are going to be held this month and coming to power on its own steam.
It was for the first time after Munde's public criticism of the party's "undemocratic" style of functioning and resignation from all party posts last month that Advani, one of the prime targets of his veiled attack, shared a dais with him and the party's Maharashtra unit chief Nitin Gadkari - Munde's other target.
While Gadkari too declared that the party's rank and file would fight the elections together and form the government under Munde's leadership, the latter urged people to oust the "anti-people and anti-farmer" Democratic Front and United Progressive Alliance governments from power in the state and in New Delhi.