Maharashtra Deputy Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis met MNS president Raj Thackeray on Friday. The meeting, which took place at Thackeray's residence in Dadar here, sparked off speculation, especially as it came ahead of civic elections in Mumbai and pending cabinet expansion of the Eknath Shinde-led government in the state. But Fadnavis maintained that it was only a "courtesy visit" for enquiring about Thackeray's health.
The Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) chief underwent a hip replacement surgery in June. Speaking to reporters later, the BJP leader said there was no need to read much into the meeting.
"In Maharashtra, we have a culture of following political etiquette. He was unwell and I paid him a visit. What is so political about it?" Fadnavis said. MNS leader Bala Nandgaonkar said he and his party colleagues Nitin Sardesai and Sandeep Deshpande were present when the two leaders met, but later Fadnavis and Thackeray had a separate discussion for over an hour.
Fadnavis and Raj Thackeray have always shared good relations. When efforts to form the new government were on, our party honestly tried to help them (the BJP), Nandgaonkar added. Asked whether the MNS will join the Eknath Shinde-led government, he said, There is no question of MNS being part of the government, (but) I don't have any idea of what transpired in the meeting between the two (Fadnavis and Raj). Earlier this month, Raj Thackeray had written an open letter to Fadnavis, praising him for setting an example of loyalty and commitment to party by accepting the post of Shinde's deputy despite being the top contender for the chief minister's post. Shinde, who toppled the Uddhav Thackeray government after rebelling along with a majority of Shiv Sena MLAs, was sworn in as CM with the BJP's support on June 30.
Asked whether the BJP and MNS will form alliance for the crucial elections to the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC), Nandgaonkar said, The situation is very conducive for our party because there is a lot of mistrust among people towards all (other) parties. We will go solo, but then again, no one is anybody's friend or enemy in politics.His party, which has one MLA, will back National Democratic Alliance (NDA) candidate Droupadi Mumru in the presidential polls, he added.
The MNS had also backed the BJP in the last month's elections to the Rajya Sabha and state Legislative Council.
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