While steering ailing cousin and Shiv Sena executive president Uddhav from Lilavati Hospital to Matoshree, MNS chief Raj Thackeray drove home the point that family ties run deep in Maharashtra politics, a fact never more in evidence than in times of adversity. It was also an occurrence that gladdened many leaders from both parties, who construed this as — if not a precursor to a possible political alliance in the immediate future — at least a sign of thawing of relations.
When Uddhav was admitted to Lilavati following severe chest pain yesterday morning, Raj, who was on his way to Alibaug for a political programme, literally dropped everything else to return to the city. Not only that, he drove the Shiv Sena executive president home in his silver Mercedes after Uddhav had gone through an angiography.
This was the first time the estranged cousins met after a gap of nearly three and half years. Apart from many MNS workers, Raj, along with his wife and mother, visited Uddhav at the hospital and spent nearly 40 minutes with him. The MNS founder then visited Lilavati a second time, to drive his cousin home. Sources say, while Raj, Uddhav and Bal Thackeray met together after a span of more than three years on the first floor of Matoshree at Bandra (East), the visitors’ room was chock-a-block with top leaders from both political outfits.
While no party worker was willing to officially comment on the possibility of any political partnerships, a senior leader was overheard mulling that if both parties come together, they won’t need to be dependent on anyone to rule over BMC. A senior Sena functionary said, “Now at least MNS won’t trouble us at the civic body, and things would be smooth there.”
Do the math
Other senior party leaders were deliberating over the permutations and combinations that may emerge out of this bonhomie between the brothers. “With our numbers it would be difficult to overthrow the ruling alliance in the state, but we would surely be stronger than before,” said an MLA.
However, while some are speculating on a merger, others are hoping only for an alliance. “It is not necessary that the votes of MNS would come directly to Sena in case of a merger. Many who do not like Sena and voted for the MNS, may shift to another party. Hence, an alliance, and not a merger, is the better option,” said a Sena functionary.
At the ground floor of Matoshree, a thin wall separated members of MNS and Shiv Sena who shared the room. A senior leader present at the venue said, “The occupancy of the same room by MNS and Sena people, and that too at Matoshree, gives out hundreds of signals. It would be wrong to say anything right now, but yes, this does mean something. Only time would be able to tell whether blood is thicker than politics.”