Transport and rural development minister Nitin Gadkari is the Bharatiya Janata Party’s senior-most leader from Maharashtra. He spoke to HT on the BJP’s decision to end the relationship with the Shiv Sena and the party’s chief ministerial candidate for the state. Excerpts from the interview:
Was the decision and the timing to snap ties with Shiv Sena right?
We tried our best, till the end, to save the alliance. There was logic behind our demand for increasing our share. We had a better strike rate of winning. Sena was not ready to bring down its seats below the 151 mark. They even declared their CM candidate, contrary to the agreement that largest party will have that post. We reached a point of no return.
Shiv Sena remains part of the central government. What is their status in the NDA?
We have not asked Sena ministers to resign. They have decided to remain part of the NDA at the centre, as of now.
Did you know the NCP would quit the UPA after the BJP-Sena split?
Maharashtra politicians knew the NCP was fed up with the Congress and chief minister Prithiviraj Chavan. It was a foregone conclusion that if the BJP parts ways, they too would shrug off the baggage of the UPA.
Is there a possibility of an alliance with the NCP?
All this is speculation. We have our ears to the ground. The party getting 27-28% vote in the five-cornered contest will get clear majority. The BJP will cross that figure with ease. We won’t need anybody’s support. We are confident.
Are you a claimant for the chief minister post?
I have told party seniors that I am not interested in going back to Maharashtra. Gopinath Munde had wanted to return to the state. Our state unit now has four capable leaders. The parliamentary board will pick up the best suitable candidate from among them after theelections. I am not returning to Maharashtra.