Shiv Sena executive president Uddhav Thackeray chose not to invite Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader Gopinath Munde for a dinner he hosted for other leaders from Munde’s party, late on Tuesday.
Thackeray had a closed-door dinner meeting with several BJP leaders including Vinod Tawde, Eknath Khadse and Sudhir Mungattiwar. Munde, however, was kept away. On agenda was the way forward for both the parties in view of the upcoming Municipal elections and the delicate political situation in the state.
“It was a routine meeting, held to chart our political strategy," BJP leader Vinod Tawde said. However, no one was willing to comment on Munde’s exclusion from the list of invitees.
Munde and his brother-in-law, the late Pramod Mahajan, were the architects of the two-decade-old Hindutva alliance they forged with the Shiv Sena. Munde has been close to the Sena and its chief, Bal Thackeray, who finds it easier to connect with old-timers like Munde, than with the newer breed of BJP leaders.
However, Munde, who has been demanding a greater say in running the party in Maharashtra, was perhaps kept away in an attempt by the Sena to strike a rapport with the emerging power centres within the state BJP.
The senior leader had the BJP on tenterhooks after publicly expressing displeasure at the way the party was functioning in the state. His supporters claimed that Munde was being sidelined from the decision-making process by supporters of BJP president Nitin Gadkari, and demanded a greater say at the state level.
Despite indications that he would quit the BJP and join the Congress, Munde eventually stayed put. On June 22, he was pacified by senior party leader Sushma Swaraj, who promised to redress his grievances.
Swaraj proposed a meeting of BJP leaders, including party president and Munde’s bete noire, Nitin Gadkari, on June 28 to address Munde’s problems. The meeting, however, is yet to take place. Munde’s failed rebellion and the BJP’s unwillingness to pacify the Dalit leader seems to have forced the Shiv Sena to reach out to other BJP state leaders.
Munde is presently in Delhi waiting for the party to address his concerns.