The change in the equation between the warring Thackeray cousins – Shiv Sena chief Uddhav and Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) chief Raj – could be a consequence of the recent Assembly debacle and the fear of losing cash-rich municipal corporations.
Uddhav and Raj were seen together at the Shivaji Park ground on the second death anniversary of the late Sena chief Bal Thackeray on Monday. Last year, Raj had skipped coming to the memorial because of the tension between the two.
With the resurgent Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) outwitting the Sena in the recent Assembly polls, the next aim for all major parties in the state is the 2017 Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) election.
The Sena, which derives its strength from being in power in the BMC and Thane Municipal Corporation, is facing an unreliable BJP, with whom it is in alliance in these places.
Prakash Bal, political expert, said it is imperative for the cousins to come together.
“If they want to survive politically in the current circumstances, they will have to join hands. They can pose a stiff challenge to the BJP and Congress, especially in the local body polls,” he said.
According to Bal, Raj, who has been significantly marginalised, has very limited choice. “Today, the MNS is in disarray because his close aides are deserting him and the morale of the workers is very low.”
Bala Nandgaonkar, close aide of Raj and a former MLA, said, “There is a feeling across Maharashtra that the cousins should come together.”
Sena leader Neelam Gorhe said the state could benefit if they come together.
There has been considerable change in the relation between the two cousins, ever since the BJP broke its 25-year-old alliance with the Sena. Uddhav is said to have called Raj and expressed unhappiness over the manner in which the break-up took place.
While Raj was keen, Uddhav backed out at the last minute, forcing the MNS chief to go it alone in the Assembly polls. Recently, when Raj’s daughter was injured in an accident, Uddhav visited the hospital.
Unlike the 2009 Assembly elections, when the MNS played a spoilsport by splitting the votes for the Sena-BJP alliance, the BJP played villain this time.