Amid tensions between the saffron allies over several issues, Shiv Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray attended a meeting for leaders of the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) in New Delhi on Monday. The Sena chief even had a brief meeting with BJP president Amit Shah. The Sena is likely to support a BJP candidate in the presidential election, scheduled for July this year, even though it had voted for Congress candidates in the past two elections. The development is seen as a positive attempt to overcome differences between the ruling allies by leaders of both the parties in Maharashtra. The Sena also supported the decision of the NDA constituents to contest the next Lok Sabha election under Modi’s leadership.
The Shah-Thackeray meeting was held just before the NDA meet. Sena sources said Thackeray will extend his support to an NDA candidate for president for the first time in 10 years.
However, the question is whether the new bonhomie will lead to improving BJP-Sena relations that had turned sour or will it sustain until the presidential elections. The Sena’s 25,000 votes are crucial for the BJP to ensure its candidate crosses the 50% mark safely.
As an NDA partner, Thackeray was invited for the meet chaired by Modi at Pravasi Bharatiya Bhavan in Delhi.
In the past, senior BJP leaders would visit ‘Matoshree’, Thackeray’s Mumbai residence, to discuss the candidates for the post.
Despite this, the Sena had supported Congress candidates Pratibha Patil and Pranab Mukherjee in the presidential elections held in 2007 and 2012 respectively. But Thackeray decided to break from that tradition. He also met Shah in a separate meeting and discussed issues the allies are struggling with. Sources said Shah also insisted on better coordination between the allies.
The move is being seen as an attempt by both partners to have a smooth partnership in power at least till 2019. Although they contested the 2014 Assembly polls separately, the two parties came together as the BJP was short of 22 votes to run the government in Maharashtra. The two parties targeted each other again during the recent civic polls, but the BJP then chose to support the Sena in the Mumbai civic body to retain power. Last week, Shah rang Thackeray and invited him for the NDA meet.
Sources said the Sena leadership is likely to soften its anti-BJP stance in the wake of recent developments. Further, it is wary of a split in the party in case it walks out of the BJP-led government in the state. The second factor is the BJP’s emergence as a single-largest party in all the elections held in the state in the last two years considering which no party will dare to go for mid-term polls and Thackeray is not exception to the idea. Radhakrishna Vikhe Patil, leader of Opposition in the Assembly, criticised Thackeray’s Delhi visit saying he has lost his self-confidence. “The Sena’s stand on a farm loan waiver was never authentic. Had it been, the Sena would have moved out of the state and central government. The Sena’s “fake” love towards farmers has been exposed,” Vikhe Patil said in a statement.