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BJP keen on keeping ties with Sena

The BJP president speaks to Uddhav Thackeray twice to break the recent deadlock, reports Shekhar Iyer.

india Updated: Oct 06, 2006 22:22 IST
Shekhar Iyer
Shekhar Iyer

BJP president Rajnath Singh spoke to Uddhav Thackeray twice on Friday to break the ice between two parties, his aides said.

Rajnath asked Maharashtra leader Gopinath Munde to meet Bal Thackeray without waiting for an invitation so that the message from the BJP that it is serious about continuing the ties.

In what was seen as the first crisis between the two parties since he took over as BJP chief, Rajnath asked Nitin Gadkari not to sound too aggressive, the aides said.

Rajnath's missive to the Maharashtra leaders was that the BJP should present its case for Chimur to the Sena supremo in a conciliatory tone rather respond with sabre rattling as Nitin Gadkari had done.

Significantly, Nitin Gadkari was not present at the meeting as he was away in Nagpur. Gadkari had come under severe attack from Sena mouthpiece 'Saamna', which described him as "the killer of alliance, while praising the late Pramod Mahajan as an architect of the alliance".

Munde's meeting with Thackeray led to easing of tension with the Sena agreeing to concede the Chimur seat to BJP. In return, the BJP agreed to give up one of the Kalyan-Dombivli seat to the Sena in the next assembly elections after delimitation.

Right from the beginning of the crisis, central B JP leaders had said it would blow over because the Sena could not afford to part ways. What was needed was a balmy approach. They had expected Thackerays (the father and son duo) to end their posturing and come around for settlement.

They saw the problem over the Chimur seat as a reflection more of the complications with the Sena caused by Uddhav Thackeray's style of functioning and a group of leaders close to him.

Central BJP leaders recalled that, even Pramod Mahajan had told the Thackerays that both parties must rotate seats so that both parties increased their tally. This was not to the liking of Uddhav who had insisted that both parties retain the 1999 formula for the 2004 polls.

The BJP leaders maintained that Uddhav Thackeray and BJP leader Nitin Gadkari had clinched the deal when they met at a function over four days ago. The BJP would contest Chimur and the Sena would put up a nominee for the Daryapur seat in Amravati district, which had fallen vacant following resignation of another Shiv Sena legislator after he joined the Congress.

Gadkari and BJP vice president Gopinath Munde were told that they would be meeting Thackeray Senior Wednesday evening for final approval.

"Something obviously changed with Uddhav and his group deciding that they should walk out of the understanding," said a senior BJP leader, who briefed party chief Rajnath Singh as soon as the crisis began.

"In fact," he said, "Uddhav sent Sena leaders Prakash Paranjpaye and Sanjay Raut to meet L K Advani a week ago to demand that his party contest Chimur. But Advani, who was briefed by the state unit, told the delegation that the issue had to be sorted out at the state level."

The by-poll in Chimur in Vidarbha region has been necessitated after a Sena MLA and Rane supporter, Vijay Wadeiitwar, quit the seat and joined the Congress. The Sena does not have a candidate, according to BJP, which had inducted into the party a Sena rebel who had contested the 2004 poll as an independent.

First Published: Oct 06, 2006 22:22 IST