Three days after Ramdas Athawale, leader of the Republican Party of India (RPI), called on Shiv Sena chief Bal Thackeray at his Bandra residence, he said his party was seriously contemplating Thackeray's proposal on the unification of Bhim Shakti and Shiv Shakti.
Athawale's RPI has been supporting the Congress-Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) alliance in Maharashtra for more than two decades.
"We are seriously considering his [Thackeray's] proposal at the party level. We are receiving various suggestions. We will take a decision at the proper time," Athawale said on Friday.
Hinting that he was moving closer to the saffron alliance, Athawale suggested that all political parties should felicitate Thackeray for his contribution to state politics. "It will suit the culture of Maharashtra."
Denying claims that he met Thackeray to put pressure on the Congress-NCP for the civic elections next year, he said: "Why should we exert pressure on the Congress or NCP? They don't give us anything even when we put pressure."
Bitter about his eviction from the New Delhi residence allotted to him as a Lok Sabha member, he claimed that it was "an act of revenge on the part of Congress and NCP".
Criticising Congress general secretary Rahul Gandhi, Athawale said he was neither aware of the Dalit movement in the country nor was unable to translate the crowd into votes.
Senior Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader Gopinath Munde, who was in Pune for a personal visit, said his party would welcome Athawale if he joined the saffron alliance.
On February 10, Munde and Athawale will be sharing the dais at Ghatkopar's Ramabai Ambedkar Nagar to mark 17th anniversary of renaming the Marathwada University after Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar.
Munde was state home minister in 1996, when Ramabai Ambedkar Nagar had witnessed riots after a bust of the Dalit leader was desecrated.
Justifying the invitation, Athawale said Munde and late BJP leader Pramod Mahajan were at the forefront in the agitation for renaming the university.