With the Maharashtra election verdict indicating a lead for Congress-NCP combine, BJP-Shiv Sena has conceded defeat and blamed the Raj Thackeray-led MNS for cutting their votes resulting in their poor-showing.
"We accept defeat...We lost in Mumbai, we lost miserably in western Maharashtra and we could not achieve our aim," BJP Vice President BJP Gopinath Munde said.
"MNS appears set to win about 13 seats after garnering around 5-6 per cent votes. After all, these were our votes," he said.
Expressing disappointment over the poll verdict, Shiv Sena leader Manohar Joshi said, "We never expected these results... if it is a defeat, it has to be accepted by everybody."
Refuting suggestions of fighting between him and BJP Maharashtra chief Nitin Gadkari, Munde said, "We campaigned unitedly. There is no question of fighting between us. The MNS is the only one reason."
There have been reports of differences between Munde and Gadkari on various issues concerning the functioning of the state party unit.
Munde rubbished suggestions that infighting in the BJP's state unit or at the Centre had cost it dearly in Maharashtra.
"This talk about differences is wrong. It is only in public perception," Munde, whose relations with state BJP chief Nitin Gadkari has been under severe strain, said.
Munde also sought to downplay the extent of damage inflicted on BJP, saying the party had won 56 seats in 2004 and would win around 46-48 seats this time. Gadkari alleged that it was Congress-NCP "plan and conspiracy" to prop up MNS to divide the BJP-Shiv Sena votes.
Munde said an election victory in Maharashtra would have been a 'morale booster' for the party.
"The victory would have a major effect on the party at the national level but we lost. The party needs a young leadership," he added.
Asked whether he would be in contention for the post of BJP national president, Munde said he was "not eligible now" for the post as he is a new face in the central politics.
"It is too early. I was never a leader at the central level. I have to work. I have to create an image," he said.
Similar was response of Gadkari, whose name was doing rounds for the post some time back. "I am happy to be in Maharashtra. I would like to be a common BJP worker," he said.