Attempting to prevent the fragmentation of anti-incumbency votes in the Lok Sabha elections, the BJP is reaching out to the Raj Thackeray-led Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) to dissuade it from putting up candidates.
Former BJP national president Nitin Gadkari met Raj over lunch at a five-star hotel in Mumbai on Monday. Gadkari, who is contesting the Lok Sabha polls from Nagpur, requested Raj not to contribute to the victory of the Congress-NCP by contesting.
Gadkari, stressed that the anti-Congress votes needed to be consolidated. He, however, added that the meeting did not signify a likely alliance with the MNS.
Gadkari, who shared the stage with Raj in Nashik recently, said the anti-Congress and NCP votes not being divided would help the NDA, and added that he had discussed this with Raj.
To a question on the Sharad Pawar-led NCP joining forces with the NDA, Gadkari said: "People say anything can happen in cricket and politics." He, however, added that any pre-poll understanding between NCP and the five-party Shiv Sena-BJP led 'Mahayuti' were slim.
Meanwhile, the Sena leaders are not too happy about the BJP making overtures to the MNS though Gadkari, and said the BJP would not try to rope in Raj without the Sena's concurrence.
In 2006, Raj quit the Shiv Sena to form the MNS and is seen as competing with his estranged cousin and Sena president Uddhav for the same core vote base. In the 2009 Lok Sabha polls, the MNS contested 12 seats and the vote-split led to the defeat of the Shiv Sena- BJP nominees in nine seats.
The fact that MNS has not revealed its cards for the Lok Sabha elections has led to speculations about whether Raj's MNS would choose not to contest in the polls. Insiders say it would be pointless for Raj to shun LS polls as this would be his first opportunity to test his strength against Uddhav in the post-Bal Thackeray era.