Mumbai: Maharashtra BJP strongly backed its former party chief Nitin Gadkari, who had met Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) president Raj Thackeray yesterday, to request him not to contest Lok Sabha polls, to ensure that votes do not get fragmented.

“Gadkariji has clarified the motive behind meeting Raj Thackeray, since he said that if MNS contests Lok Sabha polls, it will lead to division of votes (between the BJP-Sena-RPI alliance and the MNS),” Maharashtra BJP chief Devendra Fadnavis told reporters here.

“Gadkariji is our national leader. He can meet anybody he wants. It does not need my endorsement,” he said.

However, he said that his party is still unaware about MNS president Raj Thackeray’s stand on the issue.

Fadnavis also clarified that he was not summoned by Shiv Sena president Uddhav Thackeray who is said to be unhappy about Gadkari’s overtures towards the MNS.

“I was not summoned by Uddhav Thackeray last night. A meeting with him was already scheduled. No explanation was sought from me by the Sena chief,” he said.

Another BJP leader Vinod Tawde said that if the MNS does not contest Lok Sabha polls, then it would not only benefit the BJP, but also the Shiv Sena.

“We do not know why there was any need to react sharply. Gadkariji only asked him (Raj Thackeray) not to contest the Lok Sabha polls. He did not do any deal with Raj,” the Leader of the Opposition in the Legislative Council said.

“There is no need for Sena leaders to be upset,” he said, adding that, “We did not ask the MNS to join in the BJP-Sena-RPI alliance or the NDA. Gadkariji did not propose any such thing,” Tawde said.

Both the Shiv Sena and the BJP had lost their five respective seats due to the MNS factor during the 2009 general elections.

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