Maha BJP chief meets & greets PM’s harshest critic, Raj Thackeray

Mumbai:-Maharashtra BJP chief Chandrakant Patil on Friday called on Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) President Raj Thackeray, but both sides emitted mixed signals on a possible tie-up.

The meeting raised political eyebrows for several reasons, the prime being Raj Thackeray has been an ardent admirer-turned-critic of Prime Minister Narendra Modi for the past several years, besides being in the suspect list of a significant chunk of north-Indian communities in the city and its surroundings.

“There is no proposal currently of the BJP and MNS joining hands for the upcoming 2022 BrihanMumbai Municipal Corporation polls,” Patil said after the meeting.

On the other hand, senior MNS leader and a confidante of Raj Thackeray, Bala Nandgaonkar, said that any alliance between the two parties would be “a welcome development” in state politics.

However, the leaders of the ruling Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) of Shiv Sena-Nationalist Congress Party-Congress have not reacted to the development.

Patil said that Raj Thackeray is in favour of according priority to locals for employment opportunities in the state, and the MNS chief would make a demand for 80 per cent reservation for local residents.

“Some of his statements create an impression that he is against non-Maharashtrians, but after my discussions with him, I feel that he is very vocal about the rights of the locals and fights for them while not wanting to spread hatred against non-Maharashtrians,” Patil said.

On his part, Raj Thackeray, the estranged cousin of Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray, was an ardent fan of then Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi after his tour of the state in August 2011.

Even as he became a political pariah among the state’s Opposition parties, a few years later from 2014, he turned one of the most bitter critics of Modi, who had by then become the country’s Prime Minister.

Raj Thackeray’s shrill anti-Modi campaign hogged the limelight with his series of public meetings with the ‘Laa re te video” (play that video), accompanied by his caustic narratives on the alleged acts of the PM, making him persona non-grata even in the BJP circles.

He continued to take political pot-shots at the BJP, Modi and other top party leaders regularly even through his cartoons, but has apparently become less aggressive after his cousin took over as the CM of Maharashtra in November 2019, edging out the BJP.

Widely expected to play the role of a king-maker in state politics by 2019, the 15-year-old MNS party was reduced to electing a sole MLA, relegated to the political pavements.

A helping hand from the BJP could catapult it back onto the main road now.