president Amit Shah today exhorted party workers to complete Prime Minister Narendra Modi's unfinished agenda of a "Congress-free India" even as he sought to put to rest speculation about a rift with ally Shiv Sena by accepting an invitation from its chief Uddhav Thackeray for a meeting.
"Today I am here to tell every BJP worker that Narendra Modi has dreamt of an India that is free from the Congress.
"But this will not be possible till the party is uprooted from Maharashtra. You have to make sure they do not even get a chance to have a leader of the opposition in the Assembly, like the way they do not have one in the Lok Sabha," he told party workers on his maiden visit to the city after taking over the reins of the party.
Taking a dig at Rahul Gandhi, Shah said if the Congress vice president had spoken more than what he did during Lok Sabha poll campaign, the party would have failed to get even 44 seats.
"Digvijay Singh said they got less seats because Rahul Gandhi was silent. But if he (Rahul) had spoken more than what he spoke, the Congress would have found it impossible to secure even 44 seats in the Lok Sabha," he said.
During his visit, Shah also sought to put an end to speculation that ties with BJP's oldest ally Shiv Sena were under severe strain over the latter's demand for more seats by accepting an invitation from Uddhav for a meeting at his residence 'Matoshree'.
"Uddhav yesterday invited Shah to his residence 'Matoshree'. The invitation has been accepted and he will pay a courtesy visit to Uddhav at 9.30 PM today," Leader of Opposition in the Legislative Council Vinod Tawde said.
There were reports that Shah may not meet Uddhav and limit himself to BJP's programmes during his stay in Mumbai.
Shah also paid homage to Shiv Sena founder Bal Thackeray at his 'Samadhi' at Shivaji Park.
Launching a scathing attack on the Congress-NCP government in Maharashtra, Shah said it has brought "shame" to the state.
"For the last 15 years Maharashtra is being ruled by a government that is not interested in working for the people. They have shamed the state in front of India. It is now time to take away power from their hands," he said.
"Why has this coalition government frequently changed chief ministers? It is because each of them was immersed in the muck of corruption... There have been so many scams that they can't be counted even in a week," he said.
He also attacked NCP chief Sharad Pawar over the issue of suicide by farmers in the state.
"The Congress decided that the government will not buy agricultural produce from farmers at the support price and they call themselves pro-farmer. I want to ask Sharad Pawar when this anti-farmer decision was being taken which industrialist was he meeting? Why did he not save the farmers," Shah asked.
"Once BJP comes to power, I am sure even God will help Maharashtra. The droughts will end. And I am sure the next government in Maharashtra will be that of 'mahayuti' (a five-party alliance comprising BJP, Sena and three smaller parties)," he said.
Defending NDA government's stand on cancelling foreign secretary-level talks with Pakistan after its Ambassador to India Abdul Basit met Kashmiri separatists, Shah said the Centre does not want peace with Pakistan at the cost of India's security.
"When we wanted to hold talks with Pakistan, they decided to meet separatist leaders from Jammu and Kashmir. If there was any other government at the Centre, it would have gone into a huddle wondering what to do. But we in a moment decided that talks will be cancelled if they meet separatist leaders," he said.
In a boost for BJP, former Congress MP Bhaskar Rao Patil, brother-in-Law of ex-chief minister Ashok Chavan and former Union Minister and senior NCP leader Suryakanta Patil joined the BJP in the presence of Shah.
Earlier in the day, the newly-appointed BJP chief took a detailed assembly constituency-wise review of the poll preparations at a meeting of the state party's core committee.
"He also took details of the candidate selection process and asked the state leadership to expedite seat-sharing talks with ally Shiv Sena," a leader, who did not want to be named, said.
Shah, according to the leader, said a joint campaign with Shiv Sena will be worked out only after the seat-sharing talks are over.
About Modi's availability during the campaign, Shah said the Prime Minister's rallies would be worked out keeping in mind his overseas trips and official engagements.
The issue of BJP's insistence on a larger share of seats was also discussed but party leaders refused to divulge the details.
The Sena had contested 169 seats and BJP 119 in the 2009 assembly polls but considering its growing influence in Maharashtra the latter has been demanding more seats this time. In 2009, Shiv Sena had contested 169 seats and BJP 119, bagging 44 and 46 seats respectively in the 288-member house.