The BJP has taken strong exception to what it describes as an insult by former ally Uddhav Thackeray, who commented – “If a chaiwala can become prime minister, why can’t I become Maharashtra chief minister?”
Union minister Nitin Gadkari warned, “We have respect for everyone, but if they disrespect us we will not tolerate it.”
The Shiv Sena chief’s comments, published in his party’s mouthpiece Saamna, caused a stir on a day Maharashtra voted for a new government.
It was seen as Mr. Thackeray’s most obvious pitch yet for the chief minister’s post. The BJP read it as a jibe at Mr. Modi, whose campaign for the country’s top post was built around his modest beginnings as a young boy who sold tea on trains.
The BJP is contesting the polls alone after ending its 25-year alliance with the Sena after bitter wrangling over seat-sharing. The party with more seats would lay claim to the chief minister’s post, and the Sena wanted it for 54-year-old Uddhav Thackeray.
The alliance had swept the national election in May, winning 42 of the state’s 48 seats, and their break-up baffled many. The former allies have since traded increasingly sharp allegations and jibes.
“For 25 years, we have been together; we have seen victories and routs. When the alliance collapsed, I felt deeply pained, but I did not succumb,” Mr. Thackeray said in the Saamna interview.
The BJP has strategically avoided projecting anybody as a chief ministerial candidate for Maharashtra, and crafted its campaign around PM Narendra Modi and his development pitch, hoping it will pay off like it did in the national election.