The fracas between the Shiv Sena and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) recently was engineered by a senior Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) leader who wanted to weaken the saffron combine on the eve of Lok Sabha elections, Shiv Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray told dna on Saturday.
"I know exactly who masterminded the mischief and I will speak about it at the appropriate time. Right now, my focus is on campaigning. There is a massive anti-incumbency wave sweeping Maharashtra and I am certain we will perform very well," he told dna.
On BJP leader Nitin Gadkari's overtures to MNS chief Raj Thackeray, Uddhav said: "When the top leadership of the BJP personally assured me of their commitment to the alliance and told me that no one in their party has been authorised to speak about our alliance, I was convinced."
The Sena suffered another setback on Saturday when its legislative council nominee Rahul Narvekar told dna that he withdrew from the fray "with the full knowledge of the high command." He said Sena MP Anil Desai had asked him to pull out.
"I wanted to have a word with Uddhav. I left several messages at Matoshri, but in vain. I could have gone to Matoshri, but the 3 pm deadline was approaching and I had no choice but to pull out, as asked by Desai," he said. For now Narvekar, who is an advocate, is not telling which party he plans to join.
Shiv Sena sources are suspecting a systematic campaign by a section of the BJP and the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) to politically isolate Uddhav.
Gadkari, in any case, doesn't have a good equation with Uddhav. In the upper echelons of the BJP, only Gopinath Munde, the brother-in-law of Mahajan, is soft on Uddhav.
"Gadkari, who has an extremely soft corner for Raj, believes it would be in BJP's interest to weaken the Sena in the post-Bal Thackeray era. Earlier, the Sena had its presence only in urban areas like Mumbai, Thane and Pune. Subsequently, its influence spread to rural areas, restricting the BJP's political space. As long as Bal Thackeray was alive, there was nothing the BJP could do about it. The BJP feels now is the time to wrest that space from the Sena," a senior BJP leader said.
For Raj, the single-point agenda is to politically weaken his first cousin, Uddhav.
"After the death of Bal Thackeray, Raj thought many Shiv Sainiks would desert Uddhav and join MNS. But this has not happened. In fact, Uddhav has demonstrated his grip over the organisation. Hence, Raj is joining hands with anyone who can help him politically isolate Uddhav," a Sena source said.