The ceasefire in recent hostilities between the warring saffron allies seems to be working. Shiv Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray and chief minister Devendra Fadnavis shared a dais at a government function on Friday and sent out a message to the cadre that the top leadership in both parties are willing to work together.
The sharing of the dais at Mahim Nature Park was a message in itself, given that the BJP has been using protocol as an excuse to not give Thackeray a seat on the centrestage during state functions because he is technically not part of the government. This has, in the past, left the Sena fuming.
HT had reported on Thursday that a truce was in the offing after finance minister Sudhir Mungantiwar called on Thackeray at his residence Matoshree, to invite him for a state function to plant two crore saplings on July 1. Mungantiwar not only invited the Sena chief, but also extended an olive branch to end the ongoing wrangling. Thackeray, who planted a sapling, told the audience, “I was asked if I’ll go for this function. I said, why not? I am here to appreciate this initiative with an open heart and I will always praise good initiatives by the government. Not just that. Whenever required, I will stand with the government to back such schemes.’’
Fadnavis also took a step to quell naysayers. “Thackerayji planted the sapling, I watered it..you should see the significance in this. We are confident we will make Maharashtra green and the sapling we have planted will grow into a strong banyan tree,’’ Fadnavis said.
The truce comes just before a proposed cabinet expansion at the Centre and the state government, with indications now that the Sena may finally get its second cabinet portfolio this time in Delhi, besides two to three junior posts in Maharashtra. Sources told HT the BJP government is also seeking a smooth Parliament session, which will begin soon, and doesn’t want trouble from any of its allies. In the state, the BJP is staring at mini assembly elections, starting from October 2016 with 26 Zilla Parishads, nine civic corporations and more than 200 Panchayat Samitis going to polls. It does not want to take on the Sena and the Congress-NCP in these elections.
“At the end of the day, they [Sena] don’t have anyone else but us and the same goes for us. Neither of us can tie up with the Congress or the NCP. We have to accept it,’’ said a senior BJP functionary.