The food may not have been very lavish, but warring BJP and the Shiv Sena leaders from Maharashtra smoked the peace pipe after a luncheon hosted by LK Advani for Sena leader Uddhav Thackeray.
Both sides vowed to put their differences aside and work to make the alliance win as many seats as possible in the Lok Sabha elections and the Maharashtra Assembly elections.
The lunch was also attended by BJP chief Rajnath Singh, BJP leaders Gopinath Munde and Nitin Gadkari and Sena MP Manohar Joshi. State leaders from the two parties broke the ice and eventually agreed to a joint press conference later in the evening at Joshi’s residence to announce a revival of the alliance.
Though the nitty-gritties of seat-sharing for the Assembly elections and the issue of chief ministership will not be sorted out till the polls in 2009, they broadly agreed that the 20-year-old alliance should continue uninterrupted–particularly, because of the possibility of an early Lok Sabha poll.
The BJP and the Sena had come close to calling it quits after Bal Thackeray broke the NDA ranks to back UPAs nominee Pratibha Patil for the presidential elections on the grounds that she is from Maharashtra.
While BJP leaders maintained the truce was initiated at Thackeray’s instance, Sena leaders said the central BJP leadership did not share the Maharashtra BJP unit’s desire to snap ties and hence, forced a revival.
Addressing the media, Uddhav Thackeray said the tension between the two parties for the past two months was now a thing of the past and both sides would work to establish their government in Maharashtra and the BJP-led NDA at the Centre.
Echoing his sentiments, BJP national general secretary Munde said: “Our problems are over.”
Thackeray was faced with a volley of questions, such as who the Sena would support for the PM’s post and the charges levelled by the BJP about his style of functioning. Hesitating somewhat, he said the Sena would back Atal Bihari Vajpayee, LK Advani or any leader chosen by the NDA for the prime minister’s post.
Asked if he had change his working methods, he said: “There may have been some changes (in working style) with the second generation in place.”
About his party’s support for NCP leader Sharad Pawar’s bid to become PM, Thackeray said: “Let the NCP first join the NDA. Why should we talk hypothetically.” The issue has been an endless source of worry for the BJP.
To a question on whether Raj Thackeray’s rebel faction would be allowed to join the alliance, he retorted: “This is like asking whether we are going to take in the Communists and the TDP.”