Days after he formally took over as president of the Shiv Sena, Uddhav Thackeray has hinted that he is open to discussing some sort of a reconciliation with his estranged cousin, Raj Thackeray, who broke away in 2006 to form the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena.
In an interview in the party mouthpiece, Saamna, Uddhav, however, said “the efforts should be there from both the sides. The Shiv Sena will welcome anyone if he is ready to come with an open mind,” he said.
Uddhav also said the cousins should mull over the issue of division of Marathi votes. Raj chose not to react throughout the day. But, later in the evening, he said: “I will speak at the right time.”
Uddhav comments have broken the silence over an issue, reconciliation, that has been top of mind for Sena-MNS leaders ever since Raj drove Uddhav home from Lilavati hospital in July 2012 after his angioplasty.
Speculation was further fuelled when Bal Thackeray in his last video address at the Sena’s Dussehra rally in 2012 expressed his wish that the two come together for the sake of the Marathi manoos.
Asked about a reconciliation during the interview, Uddhav said: “Why only ask me this question? I am ready to give it. But if you want the true reply then both of us need to sit next to each other and then give it. The reply depends on both of us and not one person.”
He, however, added that one also needed to think why the two cousins split in the first place.
“The question is, why did we split? And if we are coming together, then what is the intention? Who is our main political opponent? Who do we want to destroy politically? And what is the path we should to take for achieving this,” he said.
On being portrayed as the one who is not ready to patch up with Raj, Uddhav said: “I stayed with Balasaheb till the end. I am his son and I never betrayed him. I did not go on to form a separate home.”
Uddhav also denied that the Sena’s alliance partner, the BJP, had proposed a Sena-BJP-MNS alliance for the 2014 elections.
Reacting to the interview, senior BJP leader Gopinath Munde said he welcomed efforts to bring the cousins together.
The state Congress described Uddhav’s move as an indication that the opposition parties had lost faith in their ability to win elections.
“This is the reason why the Sena-BJP are trying different permutations and combinations in the run up to the elections,” said Congress spokesman Sachin Sawant.