After almost three years of bitter tussles, top leaders of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the Shiv Sena made attempts to improve their relationship on Monday.
Does this mean the bickering between the two parties will end, enabling chief minister Devendra Fadnavis to run his government without the Sena hampering him? Does this mean the Shiv Sena’s mouthpiece, Saamana, will stop targeting the Modi government over every issue? Leaders from both parties said recent developments indicate an improvement in the saffron allies’ relationship, but it is too early to conclude that things will change immediately.
Both sides have grudges against each other and need to resolve a few prickly issues. The Shiv Sena will have to accept the fact that the BJP is its big brother even in Maharashtra. It must accept the role of a junior partner. The BJP will have to give the Shiv Sena a larger share of the power, said sources. It remains to be seen if the BJP will gift the Shiv Sena an extra ministerial berth in the Modi cabinet, or more departments in the Maharashtra government for supporting the party’s presidential candidate. The Shiv Sena is likely to support the BJP’s candidate in the presidential polls for the first time in 10 years.
On Monday, Sena leadership said they were happy being part of the National Democratic Alliance (NDA). NDA constituents adopted a resolution to contest the 2019 lok sabha elections under the leadership of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, at Pravasi Bhartiya Kendra at New Delhi.
Uddhav Thackeray, along with other NDA partners, expressed faith in Modi’s leadership and resolved to contest the general elections as a unit, according to Union finance ministerArun Jaitely, who was speaking on the sidelines of the meet late on Monday.
The meeting was called ahead of the presidential election scheduled in July.
The Shiv Sena chief also met BJP president Amit Shah to resolve the differences between the allies. Sources said Shah insisted on better coordination between the two parties.
The move is being seen as an attempt by both parties to ensure a smooth partnership at the Centre and in Maharashtra at least till 2019.
Sources said the Shiv Sena’s leaders are likely to soften their anti-BJP stance in the wake of recent developments. It is wary of a split in the party in case it walks out of the BJP-led government in the state. The BJP’s emergence as the single-largest party in all the elections held in the state over the past two years means that no party will dare contest against it for the mid-term polls. The Shiv Sena is no exception.
Although they contested the 2014 Assembly polls separately, the parties came together as the BJP was short of 22 votes to run the state government. But, the two parties targeted each other during the recent civic polls. However, the BJP chose to support the Shiv Sena in the Mumbai civic body to retain power. Last week, Shah called Thackeray and invited him for NDA meet. Uddhav also decided to break tradition by attending the meet, as opposed to earlier years, when BJP leaders would go to Matoshree — Thackeray’s Mumbai residence — to discuss candidates for the post.