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BJP tells Raj Thackeray: don’t contest Lok Sabha polls

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Mumbai – The BJP has urged Raj Thackeray not to contest the national election, due by May. The Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) chief has been told that his party should not end up dividing anti-Congress votes.

Senior BJP leader Nitin Gadkari reportedly met Mr Thackeray for lunch at a Mumbai hotel on Monday and told him that he should either bow out to help the BJP-Shiv Sena combine in the Lok Sabha polls, or put up candidates in the fewest seats possible. Sources say as part of the deal, the MNS leader may be welcomed into the BJP-led coalition for the Maharashtra assembly polls, due in October.

Mr Gadkari later told reporters, “We don’t want the Congress to benefit by the MNS. We hope Raj Thackeray joins the NDA, but for the moment he is not. We hope the MNS doesn’t contest and if they do then they contest as few seats as possible.”

The two leaders reportedly share a good rapport. BJP’s long-time ally Shiv Sena, however, is said to be upset about the meeting and reports suggest the BJP sent its senior leader Devendra Fadnavis to mollify Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray, Raj Thackeray’s cousin.

The Sena has always resented the Maharashtra BJP’s overtures towards Raj Thackeray and may not be open to any arrangement that would see the MNS join the BJP-led coalition.

Raj Thackeray broke away from the Shiv Sena in December 2005 to set up his own party, and made a strong debut in the Maharashtra election in 2009, winning 13 of 288 seats and becoming the cause of BJP-Sena’s defeat in some 55 seats.

In the 2009 Lok Sabha election, Raj Thackeray was said to have walked away with 15 per cent of the opposition votes and this is something the BJP wants to avoid at all costs.

The MNS and Shiv Sena have been each others undoing in polls due to their almost identical appeal. Like the Shiv Sena, the MNS has built its support base on regional chauvinism and has targeted migrant workers from other states.

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