The quiet operator behind BJP-Shiv Sena alliance pact

Updated: Oct 01, 2019, 07:37 IST | Sanjeev Shivadekar | Mumbai

A little-known engineer is said to have been the go-between for the two saffron allies Shiv Sena-BJP

Niraj Gunde
Niraj Gunde

Chembur engineer Niraj Gunde is the glue that patched the Sena-BJP deal. Unlike earlier times, when second-rung leaders from the two camps discussed seat sharing, the pact this time is said to have been struck directly between Uddhav Thackeray and CM Fadnavis, with Gunde as the go-between.

Over the past few weeks, whenever senior leaders from the two parties (for instance, BJP state President Chandrakant Patil or Sena leaders like Anil Desai), were asked about seat-sharing, the common refrain has been that the CM and Thackeray will decide, and announce, the alliance. Sources close to Matoshree said Gunde, who has access to the CM, has made several visits to Thackeray residence and "no one has been privy to the Thackeray-Gunde meetings."

Chembur resident Gunde, 48, hails from a family that strongly supports the RSS ideology. His frequent visits have been noticed not just in political circles, but also among IAS and IPS officers. Despite its strong political connections and deep roots in the RSS, the Gunde family has always stayed away from the limelight, especially the media. Gunde seems to have followed in their footsteps; he did not respond to several calls and messages to speak for this report.

The last time Gunde was in the limelight was during the 2015 Lalit Modi imbroglio, and when photographs of the then BCCI Secretary Anurag Thakur along with an alleged bookie surfaced. Thakur had then alleged that Gunde was behind the leaks and that he was trying to tarnish his image at the behest of former board president N Srinivasan. Gunde was unflustered by Thakur's salvo and quickly retreated into the shadows, till a few weeks ago, when he started getting spotted in Matoshree.

"Niraj doesn't interact with the media," said one of Gunde's close friends mid-day reached out to. "People close to power like to flaunt their connections these days, especially on social media. But Niraj doesn't like the limelight. He doesn't even have a social media account. Forget his behaviour in public, he is not boastful even when he is among close friends."

Asked about Niraj being the key messenger between the CM and Thackeray over seat sharing, the friend said, "I am not aware of any of those details. But Niraj's nature is such that whatever task is assigned, he gets it done quietly."

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