Mumbai, Jan 22 (UNI) While welcoming the BJP's move to project L K Advani as the prime ministerial candidate, Shiv Sena chief Bal Thackeray, however, has reiterated that Nationalist Congress Party president Sharad Pawar, too, has the ability to lead the country.
Mr Thackeray said this in an interview to Shiv Sena mouthpiece ''Saamna'' in the second part of the three-part interview that was published today. The interview is being carried to mark Mr Thackeray's 82nd birthday which will be celebrated tomorrow.
Incidentally, Mr Pawar had met Mr Thackeray at the latter's residence last month, and the meeting had set the rumour mill running.
However, Mr Thackeray has sought to downplay the meeting by saying two persons who belong to two different political parties, can still maintain a friendship.
''I support Mr Pawar for the prime minister's post since he has the ability,'' Mr Thackeray said. ''But, since he was once in the Congress, there is a feeling that he must have strayed,'' Mr Thackeray further added of Mr Pawar.
Mr Thackeray, however, took a dig at Mr Pawar saying the latter chose to be a minister in the UPA Government despite having opposed Sonia Gandhi for the prime minister's post.
Referring to the relations between the Shiv Sena and the BJP, Mr Thackeray said the relations were more mature when he, Mr Advani and Mr Atal Behari Vajpayee were at the helm of affairs.
That maturity is, however, lacking now, Mr Thackeray said while referring to the recents strains.
The Shiv Sena's decision to support Mrs Pratibha Patil as the Presidential candidate had led to a strained relationship between the two parties. Mr Thackeray maintained that the Shiv Sena had supported Mrs Patil since she is a Maharashtrian.
UNI JM MAZ SHB AS1635