Mumbai, Aug 1: Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi has reportedly begun a mission to bring the Thackeray cousins, Uddhav and Raj, who head the Shiv Sena and Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) respectively, together to take on the Congress in Maharashtra and give the BJP-Shiv Sena alliance a boost before the next parliamentary polls.
Maharashtra is a crucial state in the Lok Sabha polls for it sends 48 members to the Lower House, the second highest in the country.
Sources said Modi, who is the chief of the BJP's election campaign committee, has asked senior state BJP leaders to bring the warring cousins together to consolidate the anti-Congress votes. Modi, who visited Mumbai a couple of times recently, spoke on the flaws in the NDA's strategy in Maharashtra and asked the state unit of the BJP to work on bridging the gap between the Thackerays.
Maharashtra BJP chief Devendra Phadanvis has reportedly spoken to both cousins over the last few months to convince them to form a grand alliance to defeat the Congress-NCP partnership. An upset Raj Thackeray had walked away from the Shiv Sena in 2006 after the late Sena leader, Bal Thackeray, declared his son Uddhav as his successor.
Raj subsequently floated the MNS and the two Senas have been at the loggerheads ever since, damaging each other's poll prospects.
Sources in the BJP said the NDA suffered in the 2009 assembly elections in Maharashtra because the MNS made dents into the anti-Congress votes and hence they felt it was necessary to include Raj Thackeray in their battle against the Congress-NCP alliance. Maharashtra is set to go to the assembly polls next year besides the all-important Lok Sabha elections.
The BJP sources added that majority of the supporters of the two Senas believe that unitedly they could defeat the UPA but the top leaders were yet to be convinced.