Uddhav Thackeray skips Nitish Kumar's event, extends olive branch to BJP

The Shiv Sena is looking at improving its relationship with the BJP due to the upcoming expansion of Maharashtra’s Cabinet, where it expects a few plum berths 

In an indication that he does not want to upset his estranged partner, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) further, Shiv Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray has decided to skip the swearing-in ceremony of the Bihar CM-designate Nitish Kumar, on November 20.

Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis and Sena leader Uddhav Thackeray at a press conference at the Mayor’s bungalow in Shivaji Park on the occasion of Bal Thackeray’s death anniversary. PIC/DATTA KUMBHAR
Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis and Sena leader Uddhav Thackeray at a press conference at the Mayor’s bungalow in Shivaji Park on the occasion of Bal Thackeray’s death anniversary. Pic/Datta Kumbhar

Uddhav is among a galaxy of political leaders Nitish has invited for the ceremony to be held in Patna. The Bihar leader, who in partnership with Lalu Prasad Yadav, defeated the BJP in Bihar’s Assembly polls, had announced the invitations immediately after it was clear that he would form the government for the third time in a row.

The Bihar polls are seen as a big setback to PM Narendra Modi and BJP’s national president Amit Shah. The results have started a blame game in the BJP with its veteran leaders asking the Modi-Shah duo to take responsibility for the defeat.

Interestingly, the Sena had also fielded 150 candidates in the Bihar polls, making it a multi-cornered fight. Though the Sena did not win any seat, it was content with an unexpected share of votes on an unfamiliar turf. It also celebrated the BJP’s defeat by issuing several statements, one which said that it was a slap in the face of BJP leaders whom it called arrogant. It even said that the Sena would emerge as the single largest party in Maharashtra if Assembly elections were held now.

All is forgiven
When asked on Tuesday, Uddhav said that some ministers and leaders from the Sena would attend Nitish’s swearing-in ceremony. “I will not go to Patna. I will meet Nitish in December,” he told reporters in an informal chat at the Mayor’s bungalow which will be converted into Bal Thackeray’s memorial.

Uddhav did not comment further on the issue and chose to accord a welcome to CM Devendra Fadnavis, who came to the Mayor’s bungalow much after the Sena president’s arrival there.
Uddhav played a perfect host at the event, offering due respect to the CM and did not talk much at a press conference which the two leaders addressed later. The bonhomie between the two leaders was remarkable in view of the bitter exchanges they had in the Kalyan-Dombivli and Kolhapur municipal elections held recently.

The rapprochement between the Sena and BJP began a day before the Bihar poll results were declared. The two parties forged a post-poll alliance in KDMC in which the Sena, the single largest party, was given the Mayor’s post. Then Fadnavis declared that he would expand his cabinet in which the Sena would get two more berths. Sources say that the Sena may even get some good departments in the Cabinet reshuffle and expansion.

Sources in the Sena camp said that Uddhav’s move was a calculated one ahead of the ensuing Cabinet expansion. “The elections are over and now the Sena wants to focus on pressure tactics that would force the BJP to yield something significant in the future,” said a Sena leader, requesting anonymity.

A senior BJP leader said that the development would bring more stability to the BJP government.

“The BJP may not be able to fulfil all the wishes of the Sena. But our party may be able to control its menace to some extent,” he said.

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