Ruling allies Bharatiya Janata Party and Shiv Sena on Thursday engaged in a verbal spat ahead of a crucial meeting between BJP President Amit Shah with Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray on Sunday.
Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis reiterated that his BJP was ready for mid-term elections in Maharashtra and would win on its own strength in a reaction to Sena MP Sanjay Raut's recent comments that the party would withdraw support to BJP if it failed to announce a complete farm loan waiver.
"Some people had said that they will withdraw support and bring down the government. We are ready for mid-term elections. If they compel us for mid-tem polls, I am confident we will form the government again," Fadnavis told media persons.
Finance Minister Sudhir Mungantiwar also made a similar statement in a different function, making it clear that "the BJP is always prepared for mid-term elections" and would romp home on its own strength if any allies withdrew support.
Reacting sharply to this, Thackeray said "if they (BJP) have so much money, they should give it to the farmers and clear their debts".
"It seems they have a lot of money to fight mid-term elections. They should give it to the poor farmers and clear all their loans. We shall fully support them," he said sarcastically.
He added that the talk of mid-term polls is a ploy to divert attention and dilute the issue of farm loans waiver.
The Sena chief said he offered prayers on Thursday at the Gajanan Maharaj Temple in Pune to give strength to the government to implement its promise of farm loans waiver.
"We did not care for power and supported the farmers. The farmers will not forgive those who called them as 'saala' and make they cry," Thackeray said.
Later, state BJP chief Raosaheb Danve attempted so soothe ruffled feathers on both sides, saying Fadnavis did not mean mid-term elections will be held but merely the BJP as a party was ready for it.
The aggressive stance of both partners came as Shah and Thackeray plan to meet on Sunday with discussions expected to centre around the upcoming the upcoming presidential elections.
The meeting will take place at the Thackeray residence, 'Matoshri' in Bandra east during the three-day visit of Amit Shah to Mumbai to celebrate the BJP's three years in power at the Centre under the leadership of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
The meeting assumes significance for the BJP as the Shiv Sena is the most vocal critic of the party, the Prime Minister and also Fadnavis.
In an embarrassment for the ruling BJP, its ally Shiv Sena has virtually joined ranks with the state opposition parties demanding complete loan waiver for farmers and on other major issues confronting the state.
Amit Shah is expected to mollify Thackeray and ensure his support for the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) candidate in the upcoming presidential election.
In the past, the Shiv Sena had deviated from supporting NDA candidates on at least two occasions – during the elections of former President Pratibha Patil and later the current President Pranab Mukherjee for whom it pitched for a second term. It has also suggested RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat be field for the post.