CM Fadnavis, Uddhav Thackeray share stage in Mumbai, in a sign of thaw between allies

The last time the two leaders were together at a public function was at the launch of NCP leader Praful Patel’s pictorial biography in May 2017

mumbai Updated: Nov 18, 2017 16:08 IST
Swapnil Rawal
Swapnil Rawal
Hindustan Times

The Shiv Sena appeared to have softened its stance against the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). Reason: Chief minister Devendra Fadnavis visited Shivaji Park to pay homage to Sena founder, the late Bal Thackeray, and later in a closed-door meeting with Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray on Friday.

The last time the two leaders were together at a public function was at the launch of NCP leader Praful Patel’s pictorial biography in May 2017.

Thackeray is unlikely to campaign for the Sena candidates in the Gujarat Assembly polls or send top leaders of the party for this. Significantly, Thackeray also refused to comment on the police firing on agitating sugarcane farmers in Ahmednagar, in which two farmers were injured.

On the fifth death anniversary of the Sena founder, Fadnavis visited his memorial at Shivaji Park and later launched a website for a new Bal Thackeray memorial, which is planned at the mayor’s bungalow. He followed this up with a 30-minute meeting with Thackeray.

There were speculations that the two leaders discussed the Sena’s objection to former chief minister Narayan Rane’s entry to the state cabinet as the BJP’s ally. While there was no official word on what transpired at the meeting, Thackeray seemed to have softened his stance a bit.

He said no decision has been taken as yet on his visit to Gujarat for campaigning.

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Following the meeting with Fadnavis, Thackeray was asked by a group of reporters whether he would address a rally in Gujarat, he said, “It is not decided yet, but if I do, you will say that being in the NDA, we are campaigning against the government.”

He also refused to take any stand on the recent firing incident on farmers in Shegaon, Ahmednagar district. Interestingly, the party has taken a pro-farmer stance in the past few months and has demanded a loan waiver from the BJP-led government and even staged walk-outs in the state Assembly on the issue. Another indicator of the renewed stance is that the Sena has decided it won’t field a candidate against the BJP for a Mumbai civic body by-poll in Kandivli. The gesture from Thackeray came at a time when both parties are trying to wrest control over the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC). Will this truce last long? Nobody in the ruling alliance can guarantee this.

The Sena is going to contest around 60 seats in Gujarat where the polls are slated on December 9 and December 14. Last week, it had planned to take key leaders and even its ministers in the state government to campaign in the neighbouring state.

A senior Sena leader, who is involved in poll planning, said they are currently evaluating candidates in the state and would soon put out a list of the candidates. According to the leader, the party does not have a “strong base” in Gujarat. “We are still evaluating the list of people we can field. The Sena as a party does not have a strong base there. So electorally and politically we don’t stand to gain much from the election,” the senior leader told HT.

Fadnavis said the process of handing over the land for a memorial was in the last stages. “Once the process is completed, the plot will be handed over to the Shiv Sena Pramukh Balasaheb Thackeray Memorial Trust. The government is making all efforts to clear it as a priority,”he said.

The Sena also handed over cheque of Rs2 crore for the CM’s Farmer Relief Fund to Fadnavis. All Sena MPs, MLAs and corporators donated a month’s salary for farmers and Uddhav donated Rs10 lakh towards the fund.

First Published: Nov 17, 2017 12:00 IST