Shiv Sena MP Sanjay Raut has said he never suggested Nitin Gadkari’s name for prime minister, nor has his party placed any such condition before the Bharatiya Janata Party while tying up for the Lok Sabha elections. If the BJP wins “100 fewer seats” than 2014, it will be the National Democratic Alliance who decides the next prime minister, Raut told The Indian Express in an interview published on Wednesday.
The BJP has several faces for prime minister other than just Gadkari, Raut said. Senior party leader Gadkari, a Union minister, has recently made statements that have been viewed as being against the BJP. Last month, Raut wrote in his party’s mouthpiece Saamana that Gadkari is “now waiting for the hung Lok Sabha” – suggesting that he could be a frontrunner for the prime minister’s post if the BJP fails to get a majority on its own.
In his interview, Raut also suggested that the prime minister need not be from the BJP: “On [Narendra Modi] being the PM face, we have Uddhav Thackeray’s leadership in Maharashtra. It has to be noted that Nitish Kumar is the face [of the NDA] in Bihar, Parkash Singh Badal in Punjab...”
The two parties had announced an alliance on Monday for the Lok Sabha and Maharashtra Assembly elections, after months of uncertainty caused by the Shiv Sena’s regular criticism of the BJP. The party had even once ruled out partnering with the BJP again.
Raut told The Indian Express that his party was still the “big brother” in Maharashtra as the BJP had to agree to share equal seats and had to give up seats that the Shiv Sena wanted to contest on. He said the BJP “is positive” about giving the chief minister’s post to the Shiv Sena.
Raut justified the alliance by saying “such decisions are not always taken from the heart but as part of a political strategy”. “We have given them [BJP] another chance to improve their behaviour,” he said.
Raut also said Priyanka Gandhi’s entry into politics will surely benefit the Congress in Uttar Pradesh. “Though the Samajwadi Party and Bahujan Samaj Party have their base, there is a section which still loves the Congress and the Gandhi family,” he said. “Her entry will have an impact on 10-15 seats in Uttar Pradesh.”
Meanwhile, Shiv Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray said on Tuesday that he decided to join hands with the BJP because of a change in its way of dealing with its allies, PTI reported. “I want to see a Sena chief minister and I will work for it,” he said.