MUMBAI: In what has set the political circles in Maharashtra abuzz, Maharashtra Navanirman Sena (MNS) chief Raj Thackeray met Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh (RSS) sarsanghachalak Mohan Bhagwat in Mumbai last week. Raj has in the past publically praised BJP national president Nitin Gadkari and Gujarat Chief Minister and Hindutva mascot Narendra Modi. Raj even made a much publicised visit to Gujarat and also backed Modi’s candidature for the Prime Minister’s job.
A senior BJP leader said that the meeting took place last week at the RSS office at Shivaji Park in Dadar after Raj expressed his desire to understanding the working and the origins of the Sangh Pariwar, its organisational structure and the relationship between the BJP and the RSS.
Raj, Bhagwat and senior BJP corporator Ashish Shelar, who is said to have facilitated the meeting, were present at the meeting, where the RSS chief is said to have gifted Raj a book on the second RSS chief Madhav Sadashiv Golwalkar, called ‘Guruji’ by his followers. “The meeting was absolutely non- political in nature. However, we think that it is necessary to have a bridge linking us to the MNS in case we want to utilise its strengths in the causes taken up by the Sangh Pariwar,” said the BJP leader, adding that the interaction also was aimed at satiating Raj’s “academic curiosity” about the RSS. A senior MNS leader confirmed the meeting and added that Raj was “open minded” enough to meet people regardless of their political affiliations.
A section of the Maharashtra BJP has indicated its willingness for a political alignment with Raj, who enjoys support with youth and women, and is seen as a natural successor to his uncle and Shiv Sena chief Bal Thackeray due to his aggressive style and espousal of the cause of the sons of soil.
However, BJP leaders admit that a tie up with Raj would be tough considering his anti- migrant and anti- North Indian stance, which would have ramifications on the BJP’s fortunes in the northern states.
However, the BJP’s alliance partner, the Shiv Sena, which is uneasy about the growth of the MNS and its cutting into the Maharashtrian vote base, regards the overtures between the BJP and the MNS with suspicion. In December 2010, Raj triggered off a minor crisis after visiting the BJP’s state headquarters for tea at the invitation of a senior BJP leader friendly with him.
Ironically, BJP leaders admit that the Maharashtrian voters are shifting loyalties to the MNS in seats where the BJP and not the Shiv Sena is in the fray.