BJP sources said the veteran called Shiv Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray on Thursday, asking him to restart negotiations; the next morning, Sena claimed BJP boss Amit Shah called Thackeray and asked him to attend the function
Like a watchful parent seeking to settle a dispute between two children, BJP veteran L K Advani stepped in to broker peace between his party and former ally Shiv Sena. If sources in the BJP are to be believed, it was a phone call from Advani that prompted Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray to change his mind on skipping the swearing-in ceremony of the first BJP-led government of the state.
Give peace a chance: LK Advani in an animated coversation with PM Narendra Modi at Wankhede stadium yesterday
Thackeray was seen sitting on stage beside Union Minister Venkaiah Naidu. According to senior BJP sources, on Thursday night, Thackeray received a call from the former deputy PM, asking the Sena chief to attend the event and also initiate fresh talks with the party high command in Delhi. Advani had earlier stated his preference for the alliance with the Sena, after the results had been announced. The Sena, then, had also offered its support, but the BJP contended that the Sena’s demands were unacceptable and a deal could not be worked out.
End of war?
Sena spokesperson Neelam Gorhe had told this paper on Thursday that the decision to attend the event was not final and that they would take a call on it, on Friday. In the morning yesterday, the Sena claimed Thackeray got a call from BJP national chief Amit Shah, requesting him to attend the ceremony.
“Till Thursday, the party claimed it felt humiliated as the BJP had not spoken to us even once. But when their party president called us and things looked pretty clear, our leader decided to join the swearing-in ceremony,” said a senior Sena functionary. Even at the event, Advani, despite reaching the venue beforehand, waited for Thackeray to arrive.
“It was Advani who asked Uddhav to go soft on the BJP and initiate talks via his leaders,” said a senior Sena leader. After Advani’s phone call to Matoshree, sources explained, Shiv Sena’s Anil Desai and BJP’s Dharmendra Pradhan had talks. Desai left for Delhi on Friday, where he met Finance Minister Arun Jaitley and party boss Amit Shah. From there, both Jaitley and Shah spoke to Thackeray on the phone and invited him to the event. BJP sources also said the Sena was told to either toe the line or forget any future alliances.
The BJP, along with its ally, has 122 seats, and has the support of nearly 15 others, thus taking the number to 138. It needs to reach the required number of 144 to form a majority government.
Take it easy: Sources said it was L K Advani’s phone call that swayed the party into initiating fresh negotiations. Advani even waited for Uddhav Thackeray and went on stage with him. Pic/Sayyed Sameer Abedi
The NCP has announced its unconditional support, but the BJP, having castigated the party for its corruption in its campaign, is in a dilemma whether to take up the offer.
The Sena, with the extension of this olive branch, may get some representation in the government.
A senior Sena MP, confirming the development, said that on Thursday night, a very senior BJP leader with close links to the RSS had called Thackeray and had also pressurised his own party to begin talks between the two.
When asked about the developments, Rajiv Pratap Rudy, senior leader and poll observer for the state, said, “I am not aware of any such phone calls. It (Uddhav attending the event) is a welcome gesture, and it is (giving ministries to the Sena) a negotiation process.”
When asked about allegations that their party now only functions from Delhi and no decision is taken in the state, Rudy replied, “The BJP is a democratic party and such rumours aren’t true.”