While the BJP and the Shiv Sena are at odds over former BJP president Nitin Gadkari's overtures to Raj Thackeray-led MNS, the combine's other allies in Maharashtra are irritated about him trying to woo NCP chief Sharad Pawar.
Farmer leader and Hatkanangale MP Raju Shetti and Dhangar community leader Mahadeo Jankar, who heads the Rashtriya Samaj Paksha (RSP), have taken umbrage at Gadkari's comments about including Pawar in the NDA. These two parties exist on an anti-NCP, anti-Pawar plank, and have their pockets of influence in and around western Maharashtra.
The five-party 'Mahayuti' (grand alliance), which also includes Dalit leader Ramdas Athavale's Republican Party of India (RPI-A), hopes to breach the Congress-NCP stronghold in the sugar bowl of western Maharashtra. "Our stance about not allowing Pawar into the NDA is very clear and will continue," Shetti, who heads Swambhimaani Paksha, told dna, adding that he had joined the NDA as he opposed many policies of the UPA, especially those of the Pawar-controlled agriculture ministry. "If Pawar is admitted into the NDA, it will mean supporting the very things we have been opposing," said Shetti, adding that what Gadkari had said was purely his personal opinion.
Shiv Sena sources too said statements in support of Pawar by Mahayuti leaders could confuse voters especially because Mahayuti had always been targeting Pawar and his party. The idea has also been opposed by Gadkari's colleague in the BJP, the former deputy chief minister, Gopinath Munde, whose politics is built around his opposition to Pawar.
The Sena is contesting most of the 22 seats from its quota against the NCP, and eight of Shiv Sena's 11 MPs have fought against NCP nominees while four NCP MPs contested against Sena candidates. "Admitting Pawar to the NDA will destroy us," said Jankar, who is contesting from Pawar's pocket borough, Baramati, against his daughter and incumbent MP Supriya Sule. He said RSP would quit NDA if such proposals are floated. "The RSP will actively oppose this," said Jankar.