Days after the Bharatiya Janata Party-Shiv Sena alliance trouble, BJP leader Nitin Gadkari has now hinted that Maharashtra Navnirman Sena chief Raj Thackeray was very close to signing a deal with the BJP. Speaking to CNN-IBN, Gadkari stopped short of saying that with Shiv Sena's strong displeasure, the talks with the MNS collapsed. Following is the transcript of an excerpt from the interview:
Smitha Nair: About that particular meeting with Mr Raj Thackeray, it was called the 'gupt baithak' (secret meeting) by everybody. The question to you is that some in the BJP seem to suggest that it was a unilateral move on the part of Mr Nitin Gadkari. That the party leadership was not aware that Mr Gadkari was approaching Raj Thackeray for this, is there any truth in that?
Nitin Gadkari: Actually before my meeting with Raj Thackeray, even Gopinath Munde had met with him with the same agenda.
Smitha Nair: So this was a BJP strategy to meet Mr Raj Thackeray?
Nitin Gadkari: 100 per cent.
Smitha Nair: If that was indeed the case, why don't we see your party come out and your support when we saw the Shiv Sena attack you?
Nitin Gadkari: This is not the proper time for increasing the quarrels between the alliance partner. The maturity is we don't want to create more complications. So my argument was to Raj Thackeray that why he was becoming the kingmaker of the victory of Congress and NCP. In the national interest, you should play a very prominent role in supporting Narendra Modi and NDA.
Smitha Nair: Do you have regret having met Mr Raj Thackeray without taking the Shiv Sena into confidence?
Nitin Gadkari: No. At the same time I am a political leader and there is a tradition in Maharashtra that we always meet with our opponents.
Smitha Nair: Were you close to coming to some kind of understanding with Raj Thackeray before the Shiv Sena responded?
Nitin Gadkari: Not at all.
Smitha Nair: Did Raj Thackeray agree to not fill candidates before the Shiv Sena responded and how it played on?
Nitin Gadkari: No, actually the matter is closed. I never asked Raj Thackeray to support BJP candidates. I just requested him in the interest of the country that he should take an initiative and take a role in the interest of the country that he should not contest the election of Parliament and go for Assembly because he has got his own agenda for that.
Smitha Nair: And how did you gauge his response?
Nitin Gadkari: At that time before that, when he was in the mood to give the response, before that matter, you know what happened.