Saturday saw two important political leaders in Maharashtra taking a complete U-turn. While Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) chief Raj Thackeray praised former BJP president chief Nitin Gadkari for carrying out tremendous development works in the state while he was the PWD minister, Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) supremo Sharad Pawar attacked BJP's prime ministerial candidate, Narendra Modi, saying the entire country had seen the mass murders taking place in Gujarat.
Thackeray, speaking at the inauguration of the Goda Park project in Nashik, said: "Gadkari as a minister carried out tremendous development works that included constructing as many as 55 flyovers."
Raj Thackeray had recently criticised Modi for praising the Gujarat model of development and undermining the development in Maharashtra. Besides, he had also attacked Modi for not mentioning the late Shiv Sena supremo Bal Thackeray's name during his speech in Mumbai as well as for not giving up the post of the chief minister before campaigning across the country projecting himself as the future prime minister.
Raj Thackeray's attack on Modi had surprised all those hopeful of the MNS aligning with the Shiv Sena-BJP combine in the coming elections. It had also invited retaliatory attacks from the state BJP leaders.
However, BJP leaders do not attach much significance to Raj Thackeray's praise for Gadkari. "He wants to remain in focus and these are attempts at that. There is no scope for any kind of alignment with him openly at least," said a BJP leader.
Political analyst Surendra Jondhale said: "Thackeray must be sending feelers to the BJP. It may also be an attempt at softening the thorns in MNS's relationship with the BJP. Besides, Gadkari is a soft target as he does not have a mass base, and can be isolated that way in the party."
Sharad Pawar's U-turn, however, does not surprise many. Pawar had earlier said that there was no need for a debate on the issue of the Gujarat chief minister's role in the 2002 riots as the courts had ruled out his involvement in it. Pawar had also defended his meeting with Modi and pointed out that there was nothing wrong in meeting him and that he was not residing in Pakistan.
On Saturday at a meeting to discuss the state of minorities at the YB Chavan Centre, Pawar attacked Modi saying that they speak of changing the face of the country, but the entire country had seen the mass murders.
Referring to Modi's development model, Pawar said: "The chief minister of the neighbouring state speaks about his development agenda. What is development? It is bringing all round development in the lives of the poor and bringing a smile on their faces."
He also pointed out that the Gujarat chief minister had ignored certain sections of the society in his quest for power.
"Sharad Pawar's late political wisdom is welcome, but it may be an attempt at regaining the confidence of the minorities. Besides, creating confusion in the minds of the people has been his political style.
Moreover, he is fighting elections in alignment with the Congress," Jondhale added.