Reacting to the meeting of former Bharatiya Janata Party chief Nitin Gadkari with Maharashtra Navnirman Sena leader Raj Thackeray in Mumbai, the Shiv Sena on Tuesday said if a senior leader from BJP supports Raj or Sharad Pawar, it can affect the alliance.
"It can affect the 'Mahayuti' (grand alliance) if a senior leader from BJP meets Raj Thackeray and Nationalist Congress Party chief Sharad Pawar," Sena spokesperson Sanjay Raut told media persons.
The Sena leader also expressed confidence of his party firmly holding onto the Marathi electorate in Maharashtra. "Marathi votes will remain with Shiv Sena only. Nobody can dare take it away from us," he said.
"The Shiv Sena-BJP alliance will defeat the Congress-NCP and would win as many as 40 seats out of the total 48 Lok Sabha in Maharashtra," Raut claimed.
Gadkari, who is said to enjoy a good rapport with Raj Thackeray, had on Monday met the latter at a suburban five-star hotel, triggering speculation that the saffron party is trying to win over the MNS chief into the National Democratic Alliance for upcoming elections even as he said there is no reason for Shiv Sena to be annoyed by his meeting with Raj.
Gadkari had later told mediapersons that he "discussed with the MNS chief the ways to get rid of the Congress government."
However, the Republican Party of India-Athvale led by Ramdas Athawale, also an important constituent of the 'Mahayuti' led by BJP and Shiv Sena, said he would "welcome" Raj into the NDA-fold.
MNS' high-pitch debut in 2009 elections had caused a large scale division of Marathi votes ensuring the defeat of Shiv Sena candidates in Lok Sabha and assembly polls.
Image: Former Bharatiya Janata Party chief Nitin Gadkari. Photographer: Sahil Salvi