Mumbai: Shiv Sena leader Aaditya Thackeray met West Bengal Chief Minister and Trinamool Congress (TMC) chief Mamata Banerjee Tuesday evening, hinting at a possible coordination between the two regional parties in the 2024 Lok Sabha election.
The meeting between the Thackeray scion and the West Bengal chief minister comes at a time when the TMC is making an assertive effort to expand its presence and influence nationally. The Shiv Sena’s Rajya Sabha MP Sanjay Raut was also present at the meeting.
Speaking to reporters after the meeting in South Mumbai, state cabinet minister Thackeray said, “CM Uddhav (Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray) and CM Mamata didi have a different relationship.”
“There has always been coordination between the two, whether during Covid or generally in politics. She wanted to meet Uddhavsaheb today, but that wasn’t possible. So, he sent me to meet her. I conveyed my best wishes and she has conveyed her shubha sandesh (good wishes) to Uddhavsaheb,” he said.
“Today was just a courtesy visit, and I think the different relationship that we have, we naturally want to take that forward,” the 31-year-old Thackeray added.
Thackeray also tweeted about the meeting, which lasted for about 30 minutes, saying the bond between the Maharashtra and West Bengal chief ministers is “strong” and that he discussed various issues with Banerjee, including working together for tourism.
This evening, @rautsanjay61 ji and I called on West Bengal CM @MamataOfficial didi, during her visit to Maharashtra. The bond between CM Uddhav Thackeray ji and CM Mamata Didi is strong.
Discussed various things including working together for tourism for our States. pic.twitter.com/S37OVjbpRE
— Aaditya Thackeray (@AUThackeray) November 30, 2021
Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray underwent spine surgery earlier this month and is still recuperating at Mumbai’s HN Reliance Hospital.
Banerjee’s Mumbai visit
Banerjee arrived in Mumbai Tuesday on a three-day visit. Before her meeting with Thackeray and Raut, she visited the landmark Siddhivinayak Temple and the memorial to policeman Tukaram Ombale, who caught Ajmal Amir Kasab alive during the 26/11 attacks but lost his life.
At the Siddhivinayak Temple, Banerjee told reporters that she had “come to pray for Uddhav ji’s recovery, pray for everyone and take blessings.”
The West Bengal chief minister is scheduled to meet Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) president Sharad Pawar at the latter’s bungalow, Silver Oaks, Wednesday afternoon, NCP minister Nawab Malik said in a tweet.
Chief Minister of West Bengal Ms. Mamata Banerjee ji will pay a courtesy visit to our party President Sharad Pawar Saheb tomorrow wednesday, 1st December 2021, 3 pm at his residence 'Silver Oak', Mumbai.@PawarSpeaks @MamataOfficial
— Nawab Malik نواب ملک नवाब मलिक (@nawabmalikncp) November 30, 2021
Banerjee’s meetings with Shiv Sena leaders and Pawar are also being seen as significant because the TMC has been trying to position itself as an opposition party that other regional outfits can rally behind. The party has also been chipping away at the Congress’ image as the principal opposition, with its latest salvo being skipping a meeting of Opposition parties called by the Congress ahead of Parliament’s winter session.
The Shiv Sena and NCP are in alliance with the Congress in Maharashtra under the ruling Maha Vikas Aghadi banner.
Despite this, the Shiv Sena has often needled the Congress, questioning its leadership of the United Progressive Alliance (UPA), calling it weak and ineffective, and even suggesting that the Opposition at the Centre be united under Pawar’s leadership.
Shiv Sena and TMC
The first signs of coordination between the Shiv Sena and the TMC, who had historically been ideological rivals, were seen in 2016. The Shiv Sena, despite being part of the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) and in government with the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in Maharashtra, decided to side with the TMC against the ruling BJP in Parliament on the issue of demonetisation. Banerjee is said to have personally called Shiv Sena president Uddhav Thackeray to seek his support.
In 2017 too, Uddhav and Aaditya Thackeray had called on Banerjee when she visited Mumbai. However, the Shiv Sena president maintained that he did not discuss any political issues, but spoke about topics such as the Goods and Services Tax and demonetisation, on which the two parties seemed to be on the same page.
Over the past few months, the Shiv Sena has been publicly praising Banerjee, especially after her thumping victory over the BJP in the West Bengal Assembly earlier this year.
In March, the Shiv Sena showed solidarity with Banerjee by deciding not to contest the West Bengal election, and called her the “real Bengal tigress.”
In July, the party, through its mouthpiece Saamana, praised Banerjee for setting up a panel to probe the Pegasus snooping controversy. It said states must safeguard their own rights and that she had done the job of awakening all.
Moreover, addressing Shiv Sena cadre on the party’s foundation day as well as at the party’s annual Dussehra rally, Uddhav Thackeray spoke highly of Banerjee, saying that West Bengal has shown the way by not bowing down before the rulers in Delhi.
(Edited by Rohan Manoj)