Former BJP chief Nitin Gadkari on Monday met Raj Thackeray in Mumbai, triggering speculation that the saffron party is trying to win over the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena chief into the National Democratic Alliance for the upcoming elections even as he said there is no reason for Shiv Sena to be annoyed by his meeting with Raj.
Replublican Party of India (Athawale) led by Ramdas Athawale, also an important constituent of the 'Mahayuti' (grand alliance) led by BJP and Shiv Sena, said he would "welcome" Raj into NDA-fold.
Gadkari, who is said to enjoy a good rapport with Raj Thackeray, met him at a suburban hotel in Mumbai.
MNS' high-pitch debut in 2009 elections had caused a largescale division of Marathi votes ensuring the defeat of Shiv Sena candidates in Lok Sabha and assembly polls.
The development sent the political parties into a tizzy as Shiv Sena is a traditional bete noire of MNS and also an all-weather ally of BJP.
In the past also, the state BJP leadership had tried to woo Raj Thackeray but the efforts suffered a setback as Raj publicly criticised BJP's PM candidate for "harping on" the
Gujarat model of development and skirting the mention of Shiv Sena supremo late Bal Thackeray during his rally in Mumbai.
Speaking to the media later in the evening, Gadkari said, "I discussed with the MNS chief the ways to get rid of the Congress government."
"There is no reason for Uddhav Thackeray to be annoyed over my meeting Raj... I meet everybody including Congress people," he said.
Asked if Sharad Pawar-led NCP will come over to NDA after the elections, Gadkari said anything can happen in cricket and politics.
"We are confident of getting a clear majority on our own," the BJP leader added.
When contacted, Shiv Sena spokesperson Sanjay Raut said: "We have nothing to say on the meeting".
Gadkari had last month attended the ground-breaking ceremony of GodaPark, which is said to be the dream project of Raj Thackeray, in Nashik where MNS is at helm with the support of BJP.
Adding credence to the speculations, Athawale said "we would welcome Raj Thackeray if he joins the Maha-yuti".
Interestingly, Athawale had in the past steadfastly opposed entry of MNS in NDA-fold.
The 'Mahayuti' comprises five opposition parties, including Raju Shetti's Swabhimani Shetkari Sanghatana and Mahadeo Jankar's RSP, besides BJP, Shiv Sena and RPI (A).