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Raj Thackeray takes u-turn on BJP, heaps praise on Nitin Gadkari

Days after criticising BJP’s prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi, the MNS chief shared the stage with former BJP chief Nitin Gadkari on Saturday; the next day, his party leaders rubbed shoulders with BJP-Shiv Sena leaders at a meeting

When MNS chief Raj Thackeray publicly questioned why Narendra Modi hasn’t stepped down yet as Gujarat CM, it was seen as an unequivocal sign of a feud between MNS and BJP-led NDA.

But developments over the weekend have sent mixed signals. On Saturday, Raj Thackeray shared the dais with former BJP chief Nitin Gadkari at Nashik, and heaped praises on the latter’s leadership qualities. His party MLAs also rubbed shoulders with BJP workers on Sunday.

When MNS group leaders Bala Nandgaonkar and Nitin Sardesai reached B-4, the official residence of leader of Opposition and BJP man Ekanth Khadse, for a meeting, several eyebrows were raised, in the backdrop of the bitter tiff between the MNS and the BJP-Shiv Sena alliance, during the winter session of the state legislature last December.

Changing tact
Initially, both MNS and BJP had raised a hue and cry, impeding the proceedings at the state assembly. BJP-Shiv Sena, as the Opposition, aggressively demanded that action be taken against tainted ministers, their demands causing repeated adjournments. MNS, which was, initially, party to the Opposition’s stand, later withdrew support, saying that there was a tacit understanding between the BJP and the ruling Congress-NCP.

“The understanding between BJP and Congress has stalled important business, and we have been unable to raise important issues before the state,” MNS group leader Nandgaonkar had alleged. MNS party chief Raj Thackeray has also been taking digs at the Opposition during his rallies in recent times, asking whether BJP and Shiv Sena were in opposition to each other, or partners in the Democratic Front government.

But it now appears that the political standoff between BJP and MNS has eased and taken a U-turn. When contacted, senior BJP leader Eknath Khadse said the MNS had attended the meeting to show that it was part of the Opposition. “I cannot say exactly what their contribution to the Opposition would be”, he said.

Nandgaonkar, on the other hand, told this paper that his party had been invited for the meeting on Sunday. He said, “We wanted to consolidate the strength of the Opposition on the floor of the house. The consolidated Opposition decided to boycott the customary tea party organised by Chief Minister Prithiviraj Chavan, in response to the government’s uncooperative attitude on various issues, including debate on the Adarsh Commission report and the toll issue.”

Meanwhile, MNS chief Raj Thackeray sang paeans for BJP ex-chief Nitin Gadkari’s leadership qualities. “He is the leader who gets things done, the Mumbai-Pune Expressway being a case in point,” said Thackeray. Thackeray however asked the media gathered at Nashik on Saturday not to draw any political conclusions from the fact that he had shared a dais with Gadkari.

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