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Raj Thackeray stirs the pot, backs Gopinath Munde

The move surprised many, coming in the wake of BJP’s strong opposition to Raj Thackeray’s support for Narendra Modi, and in the face of stiff opposition from Uddhav Thackeray over the ‘friendship’ between BJP leader Nitin Gadkari and the MNS chief

As campaigning for the second phase of polling ended last evening, local skirmishes between Congress and NCP could put candidates of the two parties in jeopardy. Adding to the drama, the MNS sprung a surprise, with party chief Raj Thackeray announcing his support for senior BJP leader Gopinath Munde, who is locked in close battle for Beed.

MNS chief Raj Thackeray at a rally held in Jogeshwari in support of Mahesh Manjrekar, his party’s candidate for Mumbai North West constituency. Pic/Nimesh Dave
MNS chief Raj Thackeray at a rally held in Jogeshwari in support of Mahesh Manjrekar, his party’s candidate for Mumbai North West constituency. Pic/Nimesh Dave

Raj Thackeray’s support is unexpected, coming at a time when all BJP leaders — with the notable exception Nitin Gadkari – have been turning the heat on the MNS for supporting Narendra Modi as the prime ministerial candidate. The BJP had even lodged a complaint with the Election Commission, asking it to ban the MNS from using Modi’s photo on its party’s banners and posters.

Speaking at Pune last week, party chief Rajnath Singh made his displeasure in clear, unambiguous terms, asking Raj Thackeray why he was offering unsolicited support to the party. ‘You either join NDA or merge with BJP,’ he said.

In his response to the jibe, Thackeray said on Monday that he had declared his support to Modi, and not to Singh, adding, “Modi is silent; why are you talking about it.” Thackeray has now directed all his workers and followers from Beed district to support Munde and ensure that he wins the seat.

The show of support comes in spite of strong opposition from Shiv Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray, who has expressed his unhappiness with the show of amity between Nitin Gadkari and his cousin Raj.

Meanwhile, the Congress and NCP have not been able to resolve the ongoing crisis in the Ratnagiri-Sindhudurg region, where the fate of Congress nominee Nilesh Rane is uncertain, with NCP MLA Deepak Kesarkar’s decision to stay away from the campaigning and show tacit support for Shiv Sena candidate Vinayak Raut.

Kesarkar has already submitted his resignation to party chief Sharad Pawar, and recently held a meeting with his supporters at Sawantwadi. The impact of the fallout in the Konkan region is visible in Nashik, where PWD Minister Chhagan Bhujbal may have a tough time, with Congress MLA Manikrao Kokate’s not showing up for campaigning.

At Parbhani, Congress MLA Ramprasad Bordikar has decided to ignore the party directive to participate in the campaign of NCP candidate Vijay Bhamble.

He has decided to support Shiv Sena’s Parbhani candidate Sanjay alias Bandu Jadhav instead. At Nandurabar, NCP rebel Dr Vijaykumar Gavit’s daughter Dr Heena Gavit has rocked the boat by challenging nine-time MP Manikrao Gavit. 

At Palghar in Thane, Congress’ decision to back Hitendra Thakur-led Bahujan Vikas Aghadi candidate Baliram Jadhav hasn’t gone down too well with the NCP, and its cadre is backing rebel Congress candidate Sachin Shingada. Here, Congress decided to withdraw its Minister of State Rajendra Gavit.

Munde sought my backing: Raj Thackeray
Clarifying his decision to back BJP leader Gopinath Munde, MNS chief Raj Thackeray said the leader had telephoned him with a request for support. Raj mocked Munde, who, on several occasions, had said there was no need to align with MNS. Raj said ‘First you oppose us, and then request support. Neither do we want to join NDA, nor are we interested in joining the government. Our support to the Modi-led government will be from outside.”

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