Sparking off speculations about a reunion, Thackeray cousins Uddhav and Raj were seen together for the first time in two years, to observe Shiv Sena patriarch Bal Thackeray’s second death anniversary at Shivaji Park on Monday.
Further, chief minister Devendra Fadnavis, who stopped by to pay his respects, announced the government’s plan to build a grand memorial for the late Sena chief — a possible indication of the Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) willingness to reunite with its former ally.
The Sena, however, appears to warming up to Raj’s Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS), as it needs the party’s support in the Mumbai and Thane civic bodies, in case the BJP withdraws support. This was evident in the welcome extended to Raj by Sena leaders on Monday. While last year the MNS chief had not turned up for the occasion, this time he had his arm around Uddhav, while he sat and spoke to him.
“All of Maharashtra feels they should come together,” said Bala Nandgoankar, Raj’s aide, while addressing the media outside the venue. “They don’t need a mediator, as both are capable of taking the right decision.”
Sena workers too echoed the sentiments.“Maharashtrian votes will not be split, and it would be a fitting tribute to Balasaheb,” said Santosh Jagtap, 38, who had come to the city from Dound, Pune. According to NCP leader Chhagan Bhujbal, who was earlier with the Sena, the brothers could come to power in the state if they joined hands.
However, when Fadnavis arrived with his cabinet colleagues Vinod Tawde, Panjaka Munde and Prakash Mehta, Sena workers chanted slogans of “chale jao” (get out). But the chief minister went on to pay his respects, spoke to Uddhav for a few minutes and then left the venue. “Balasaheb was our guide and we have decided to construct a grand memorial for him. I have already constituted a committee, to be headed by the chief secretary, for the task,” Fadnavis told the media. The panel would consult Uddhav and other Sena leaders on where and how the memorial should be built, he said.
Interestingly, when Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) chief Sharad Pawar visited the venue with his wife in the evening, Uddhav was absent. This follows the Sena’s criticism for the BJP, after they sought the NCP’s support during the trust vote last week. Meanwhile, in an editorial in party mouthpiece Saamana, the party said, “Don’t look at Shiv Sena with hopes to save you.”
“The people are angry with the government. As far as the memorial is concerned, we are capable of constructing it ourselves,” said Eknath Shinde, opposition leader in the state assembly.