Amit Shah meets Uddhav Thackeray as BJP looks to placate sulking Shiv Sena

Amit Shah’s meeting with Shiv Sena leader Uddhav Thackeray comes amid an attempt by the BJP to reach out to allies who have been criticising the party and also to strengthen the NDA ahead of the Lok Sabha elections in 2019
Uddhav Thackeray and Amit Shah at a meeting last June.(PTI File Photo)
Uddhav Thackeray and Amit Shah at a meeting last June.(PTI File Photo)
Updated on Jun 06, 2018 11:20 PM IST
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Hindustan Times, Mumbai | By

Bharaitya Janata Party (BJP) president Amit Shah kick-started his series of talks with key National Democratic Alliance partners, calling on Shiv Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray for a two-hour meeting in Mumbai on Wednesday.

Shah, who was in Mumbai for a day-long visit, met Thackeray at his residence Matoshree in Bandra East at around 7.40pm and was with him until 10.10pm. The two leaders had a closed-door one-on-one meeting for 20 minutes, followed by a marathon discussion also involving Maharashtra chief minister Devendra Fadnavis and Thackeray’s son Aditya, according to people familiar with the developments.

“The agenda of the meeting was to ensure better coordination and resolve grievances. The BJP is keen on an alliance with the Sena in the upcoming polls. Both our parties will face losses if we contest separately in the face of a united Opposition from the Congress-NCP (Nationalist Congress Party) in the state,” said a senior BJP state functionary.

The meeting came on a day when the Sena mouthpiece Saamana had made a scathing comment about Shah’s outreach to allies, in which he will meet Sena, Shiromani Akali Dal and JD(U) leaders in the coming days. “The PM is touring the world and BJP chief Amit Shah is touring the country as part of their Sampark for Samarthan (contact for support). Shah will be meeting NDA allies. But, what exactly will he do? It is a question why he is meeting now after the BJP suffered defeats in bypolls. Sena will contest 2019 elections solo,” the editorial in Saamana read.

In the 2014 Lok Sabha polls, the BJP had contested 27 seats and won 23 seats, while the Sena had contested 21 seats and won 18. But the two have been squabbling in recent weeks, with the Sena criticising the BJP-led central government, of which it is a part, on issues ranging from petrol prices to rural distress.

On his last visit to Mumbai on the BJP’s Foundation Day in April, Shah had said it was his “heartiest wish” that the Sena and the BJP stayed together. But the two parties contested against each other in an assembly bypoll in Palghar, where the BJP won. Even after the bypoll, chief minister Fadnavis appeared to reach out to the Sena, asking if allies who share power at the Centre and the state should contest against each other.

In Punjab, where Shah will go on Thursday, SAD chief Sukhbir Badal pitched for strengthening the NDA in a “war-like situation”. The former Punjab deputy chief minister on Wednesday said the alliance partners must settle their differences to ensure victory in the general elections next year. Shah is scheduled to meet Sukhbir and his father Parkash Singh Badal during his visit.

The SAD has opposed BJP on various issues including the appointment of Chairman or members of the National Minority Commission and not taking NDA partners into confidence on key issues.

Having lost the support of the Telugu Desam Party (TDP) in Andhra Pradesh in March, the BJP is not only trying to retain its allies, but is also trying hard to bolster its presence in states where its presence is limited or negligible, such as West Bengal and Tamil Nadu.

These parleys are happening at a time when several Opposition parties led by the Congress are trying to put together are anti-BJP front ahead of the 2019 Lok Sabha elections.

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