With the state polls due next year, the Bharatiya Janata Party now seems to be cosying up to the other Sena, much to the envy of its longtime ally. The day an edit in Shiv Sena mouthpiece Saamna lambasted BJP for its attempts to bring together the warring cousins Uddhav and Raj Thackeray, senior leadership in the party gave its go-ahead to state unit chief Devendra Fadnavis for holding a pending meet with MNS chief Raj right away.
A week after this paper opined in an edit (‘Disunited opposition blighting its chances to unseat Congress-NCP’) that fissures in the state’s political opposition may keep it from wresting reins from the Congress-NCP regime, the BJP has ventured on and widened the chasm with old ally Shiv Sena, by courting its archrival, the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena.
Things have now come to a head. The meeting, which took place at Raj’s residence on Wednesday, has indicated that BJP is in no mood to heed the Shiv Sena leadership’s objections, say senior party leaders. According to them, Fadnavis had spoken to senior leaders before going ahead with the encounter. The move has the blessing of party’s central leadership, which has already given the nod for the BJP state unit to pursue MNS.
“When the time comes we will not hesitate to invite MNS to join hands with us and ignore Shiv Sena,” said a senior party leader. “Let Shiv Sena party chief claim that the leaders in Delhi treat his party as a valued partner in NDA, but they are all aware of the ground realities in Maharashtra. We cannot ignore MNS,” he said firmly.
BJP leaders, who were aware of the Fadnavis-Thackeray rendezvous, said it took place when the Shiv Sena instrument lambasted RPI leader Ramdas Athawale’s open call for the MNS to join the grand alliance. Sena in general and Uddhav in particular have always resented BJP’s hobnobbing with MNS, be it after Raj’s visit to BJP state headquarters near Mantralaya, meetings between former BJP president Nitin Gadkari and Raj, or the statements by BJP veteran Gopinath Munde on the necessity to invite MNS to join the grand alliance.
When Fadnavis went to Krishna Kunj, the Shivaji Park residence of the MNS chief, Raj was in a meeting with his MLAs and other office bearers. He interrupted the meet to entertain Fadnavis, said an MNS leader. Later, both the leaders interacted with MNS legislators and office bearers, sources said.
Last week, an edit in Saamna, of which Uddhav Thackeray is the editor, came down heavily on RPI chief Athawale for favouring the idea of MNS joining the tripartite alliance comprising Shiv Sena-BJP-RPI. “The khichri will be tasteless if a fourth partner joins the alliance,” said the edit, hurling barbs at the erstwhile BJP chief Gadkari for his recent statement in Pune on making efforts to bring together the alienated cousins.
“It should not be that you (BJP and RPI) invite a guest and ask Shiv Sena to arrange lodging and boarding for him. Are you ready to share from your plate with the new partner?” the edit asked jeeringly, making it clear that Sena will not offer anything from its quota of seats in the Lok Sabha or the state assembly for MNS. This is enough indication on the power sharing formula, in the event the grand alliance defeats the Congress-NCP government.
Former BJP chief Nitin Gadkari met Raj Thackeray at the latter's residence