After days of name calling and wrangling with each other, there was an attempt at a truce between the Shiv Sena and Bharatiya Janata Party on Thursday after senior BJP leader and finance minister Sudhir Mungantiwar called on Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray at his residence Matoshree, to invite the latter for a government function.
While the ostensible reason for the meeting was the government invitation for a state wide drive to plant 2 crore trees on Friday, July 1, the 25-minutes meeting between the two went beyond formalities with BJP holding out an olive branch and calling for a ceasefire.
Sources told HT that Mungantiwar’s visit was not impromptu and Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis was in the loop over the attempt to meet Sena chief as a way of making amends.
``It was a positive meeting. It is only natural to invite our ally for the function. We want to move forward instead of trying to remove scabs of old wounds. And, having a dialogue always helps,’’ Mungantiwar told HT.
Sources also said that it had been decided to end hostilities and keep doors for dialogue and co-ordination more ajar ahead of the upcoming elections to Zilla Parishads and civic corporations. Thackeray and Fadnavis are now expected to meet next week ahead of the cabinet reshuffle.
Despite what Mungantiwar said the invitation itself is important considering that BJP has earlier used protocol as an excuse to not give Sena chief, a place on the dias at government functions. At two functions earlier, Thackeray was not even invited, leading to backlash from the Sena.
Post meeting, Thackeray also spoke of peace but his statement about the nature of alliance was guarded.
“Whether the alliance’s differences will remain or not depend on both the parties. We haven’t opposed them for the sake of opposing. There are fundamental differences, which we can’t agree to, and we will continue to voice our opposition to those,’’ said Thackeray even as he praised Mungantiwar.
``After a very long time, the State has got a forest minister who is passionate about the environment,’’ he added. The Sena chief also made light of the minister’s gift – life size model of a tiger - and remarked at the need to let the ‘tiger’ (symbol associated with the Sena) grow. “We spoke about how to ensure that the tiger count increases. Tiger numbers must grow, not just in the State but across the country.”
Sena insiders, said that the visit did help ties. “It was nice that they finally showed respect to Uddhavji. However, such a one-off visit will not help. The government needs to realize that Uddhavji is our tallest leader and the Sena is an important partner, to involve him more often,” said a senior Sena leader, not wishing to be named.
Whether this truce can tone down bitterness between the parties especially at the local level remains to be seen. A section within the BJP is keen on having a clean split with Sena ahead of the polls.
For the last two weeks, the saffron allies have been lampooning leaders of the other with Sena taking the hostilities a step further by holding protests and burning effigies of BJP leaders. The recent spat started with BJP spokesperson Madhav Bhandari writing an article in party fortnightly Manogat, challenging Sena to walk out and comparing Thackeray to comedian Asrani from the Bollywood blockbuster, Sholay. It was a retort to an editorial in Sena mouthpiece Saamna that said BJP government was akin to the `Nizam’ raj.