Fadnavis-Raj Thackeray meet, spark political speculation
A surprise meeting between Maharashtra Navnirman Sena President Raj Thackeray and Leader of Opposition and BJP leader Devendra Fadnavis on Tuesday fuelled speculation of a new political front emerging in Maharashtra.
While a MNS spokesperson confirmed the meeting, he declined to elaborate on the deliberations between the two leaders, once at loggerheads.
Fadnavis met Raj Thackeray - the estranged cousin of Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray - at a venue in south-central Mumbai this afternoon for around an hour.
The meeting is considered significant as the MNS is toying with the idea of claiming the 'Hindutva' space vacated by the Shiv Sena after its alliance with the BJP broke in October and it hugged Nationalist Congress Party-Congress to form the Maha Vikas Aghadi government in November.
The BJP too has been trying to come to terms with the tectonic shift in the state political arena after the October 21 elections with huge ramifications for the party in the future.
However, during the assembly election campaign, the MNS had been extremely harsh on Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the BJP, its President and Union Home Minister Amit Shah.
In his well-attended poll meetings, the charismatic Raj Thackeray even fervently appealed to the electorate to vote for MNS as a "strong Opposition party", but managed to bag only one seat, virtually putting a question mark on its future and survival.
Earlier during the Lok Sabha election, the MNS has experienced a taste of realpolitik when both fronts - BJP-Shiv Sena and NCP-Congress kept Raj Thackeray at an arm's length.
After being treated as virtually a political pariah in two successive elections, the 14-year old MNS is busy exploring greener pastures possibly with a saffron partner, well in time for the 2024 assembly polls.
Simultaneously the MNS is also planning to turn a new leaf, starting with a change in its party colours to a saffron hue and a new design flag invoking Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj's glorious regime.
MNS leaders say any final decisions on these would be taken by Raj Thackeray at an important convention scheduled later this month.