Rebel Shiv Sena leader Rahul Shewale on Thursday said Uddhav Thackeray was not a "winnable" face for the 2024 Lok Sabha election and it was imperative for them to tie up with the Bharatiya Janata Party.
The issue of leadership for the next Lok Sabha polls came up during several meetings the now-rebel leaders had with Thackeray in the run-up to a split in the Shiv Sena, Shewale, who was named as the leader of the party in the Lower House of Parliament on Tuesday, told PTI.
"I raised the issue of leadership for the Lok Sabha election during a meeting with Thackeray. Sanjay Raut, who was also present, gestured towards Thackeray as the face for the election. I told him that we respect Thackeray but we have to be realistic. He cannot be the face for the Lok Sabha polls," he said.
Shewale said the Shiv Sena's alliance with the Nationalist Congress Party and the Congress had further complicated matters as the parties were rivals in several constituencies.
"Furthermore, the UPA would contest elections under the leadership of Rahul Gandhi, which will not be acceptable for our cadre," Shewale said.
Shewale and 11 other Lok Sabha members have shifted their allegiance to Sena rebel Eknath Shinde, who was appointed the Maharashtra chief minister on June 30, after Thackeray quit the post due to a large-scale rebellion in the Shiv Sena ranks.
Shewale insisted that a large number of Sena leaders were in favour of an alliance with the BJP and keen to contest the next Lok Sabha polls under the leadership of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
He said Shiv Sena leaders began to feel insecure within the party when the leadership offered key Lok Sabha constituencies to the NCP during discussions for the general election.
"Shivajirao Adhalrao Patil, who lost to the NCP's Amol Kolhe from Shirur, was asked to shift to the Pune Lok Sabha seat, while the Maval seat, won by the Sena's Shrirang Appa Barne, was offered to Parth Pawar, the son of former deputy chief minister Ajit Pawar," Shewale said.
He reiterated the claims that Thackeray was keen on reviving the Shiv Sena-BJP coalition and had discussed the issue with Prime Minister Modi during his visit to Delhi in June last year.
Shewale did not rule out a patch up between the two rival factions of the Shiv Sena should some incident, such as the Balakot airstrikes, takes place in the future, which could lead to an upsurge of nationalism.
"There was also a proposal of Thackeray leading the party and Shinde as the leader of the government. But it did not work out," he said.