The BJP is ready for mid-term elections in Maharashtra, Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis has said, in an apparent response to Shiv Sena's threat to withdraw support but the chief of the junior ally today mocked at the poll retort.
The fresh spat between the two traditional allies broke out ahead of the BJP president Amit Shah's Maharashtra tour beginning tomorrow, as the saffron party hardened its stand vis-a-vis its belligerent ally.
Fadnavis' remarks come days after Shiv Sena threatened to withdraw its support to the BJP-led NDA government in Maharashtra, in which it is a junior partner, if a blanket loan waiver is not granted to farmers and implemented by the next month.
However, state unit BJP president Raosaheb Danve said though there are no chances of early polls, the party is prepared to face them if such a situation were to arise.
Fadnavis' comment, however, seems to have ruffled Thackeray's feathers at a time when the BJP is trying to seek the Sena's assured support for the upcoming presidential elections. The Sena earlier threatened to take an "independent stand" in the polls.
Sena mouthpiece 'Saamana' has reported that Shah will meet Thackeray on June 18.
Amid reports speculating mid-term polls in Maharashtra against the backdrop of farmers' stir for a complete loan waiver and Sena's threat to withdraw support, Fadnavis yesterday said the state BJP unit is prepared for early polls.
The Fadnavis government recently agreed in principle to grant a "complete and conditional" loan waiver to farmers.
"Some people said (when the farmers' agitation was on) that they will bring the government down, they will withdraw support. I said we are ready for mid-term polls.
"If someone wants to impel us to go for mid-term polls, I am confident we will be able to form government again," he told reporters here without naming any party.
Fadnavis' remarks come days after Sena MP Sanjay Raut suggested that his party would withdraw support if the loan waiver was not announced.
Hitting back at Fadnavis, Thackeray today said the talk of mid-term poll indicates that BJP has a lot of money lying with them.
He alleged the issue of the mid-term poll seems to have been raked up in a bid to postpone distribution of the loan waiver money.
The state government last Sunday announced waiver of farm loans.
"If you (Fadnavis) are ready (for mid-term polls), you (BJP) have money. If that is the case then you should give that money to farmers so that there will be no need for mid-term polls at all..You seem to have hoards of money...Give farmers a loan waiver, clear their 7/12 (land records) extracts (of liabilities) without imposing any conditions, and we will continue to support you," Thackeray told reporters at Shegaon town in Buldhana district.
Thackeray himself on Tuesday warned the BJP that his party would take a "big step" if the loan waiver for farmers announced by the state government is not implemented by next month.
He today said the issue of mid-term polls is raked up to delay implementation of the loan waiver.
"I fear that this issue has been raked up now to divert attention from the loan waiver, instigate us and to prolong waiving loans. If you do not implement loan waiver, there will be a political earthquake. Farmers have shown how an earthquake can hurt (the government)," Thackeray added.
Appealing to farmers to stay united on the loan waiver issue, the Sena chief said that in case of a rift among them they will miss this opportunity to get their loans waived.
"However, Sena will not let this happen and keep backing farmers until a complete loan waiver is given.
"Loan waiver is not the complete solution to treat the agrarian crisis but that does not mean you do not start the first line of treatment. There has to be a beginning. Farmers are dying for want of loan waiver," he said.
He said after waiving loans of farmers they should be empowered so that they do not fall into the vicious cycle of borrowing and indebtedness again. "Moreover, a proper MSP (Minimum Support Price) should be given for their agri produce," Thackeray added.
Meanwhile, speaking to reporters in Mumbai, the state unit BJP chief said there are no chances of early polls.
"There are no chances of interim elections in the state. However, if situation demands, the BJP is ready for interim elections," Danve said.
When asked to comment on Thackeray's statement that the BJP is sitting on a pile of money, Danve said, "This question should be asked to him (Thackeray).