BJP and Shiv Sena leaders interpreted the meeting between Amit Shah and Uddhav Thackeray differently — BJP described it as “positive” but Sena struck a cautious note.
Mumbai: The meeting between Amit Shah and Uddhav Thackeray Wednesday evening have been projected differently by the two parties, reflecting the ever-growing rift between the BJP and its Maharashtra ally, the Shiv Sena.
The BJP described it as “positive” while the Sena preferred a more cautious stance.
Shah met Thackeray at the latter’s residence Matoshree, and is said to have extended an olive branch to the Sena. The BJP is looking to get its ally on board for 2019 polls at a time when opposition forces are joining hands with a common motive of defeating the BJP.
Senior Shiv Sena leaders, who did not wish to be named, said with Shah promising Thackeray two-three more meetings in the next few months, the party will prefer to be in a “wait and watch” mode.
A senior Shiv Sena leader said Shah sought the party’s support for Lok Sabha elections and suggested that the two can work out a “favourable formula — possibly 50-50 — for the state assembly polls”.
“But that is not likely to work,” he said. “If we were okay with it, we would have conceded in 2014 itself. Moreover, the BJP has hurt the Shiv Sena so many times that it is difficult to trust the party’s word.”
The Shiv Sena will wait and see what happens in the next few meetings, said the leader. “But, overall, the tone seems that somewhere the BJP has realised that it has erred in its behaviour towards the Shiv Sena (sic),” he said.
Behind closed doors at Matoshree
At Matoshree, Shah and Thackeray’s closed-door meeting lasted two hours. Maharashtra chief minister Devendra Fadnavis and Thackeray’s son Aaditya attended a part of it, but senior leaders from both parties were kept out.
The two party chiefs were meeting after June 2017 when Shah visited Matoshree to gather support for the NDA’s presidential nominee.
Senior Shiv Sena sources said Thackeray is also likely to have raised a list of grouses that his party has against the BJP.
“Uddhav saheb has spoken about these issues time and again in the public domain. Given that this was a lengthy, confidential one-on-one meeting, the Sena president is said to have discussed these issues with Shah too. Our party chief is said to have conveyed the Shiv Sena’s discontent at the total breakdown in communication with allies under the present NDA government as compared with the Vajpayee government,” the leader said.
Other issues that Thackeray is likely to have raised with the BJP president include lack of sufficient representation for the Shiv Sena in the central and state cabinets, ministers in the Devendra Fadnavis-led cabinet having little say, and pendency of works proposed by Shiv Sena MPs and MLAs in their constituencies.
The BJP is keen on forging an alliance with the Shiv Sena for 2019 but Thackeray’s party is irked with the BJP for allegedly taking it for granted and has passed an official resolution to contest the polls independently.
Hours before the meeting with Shah, the Shiv Sena, through an editorial in the party’s mouthpiece Saamana, reiterated its resolve of going it alone and even slammed the BJP president’s ‘Sampark for samarthan’ programme, a drive to reach out to key opinion makers as well as NDA allies to publicise the achievements of the Narendra Modi-led government.
“It is our party’s official resolution to fight 2019 elections on our own strength. This was Shiv Sena Chief Uddhav Thackeray’s decision. Although Amit Shah met him and they had some discussion, a leader of another party cannot change official decisions of our political party,” Sena’s Rajya Sabha MP Sanjay Raut told television channels Thursday.
The BJP and Shiv Sena were alliance partners for 25 years before the parties split up in 2014 due to disagreements over seat sharing for the Maharashtra assembly polls.
Despite the split, the Sena did not pull out of the NDA. The two parties joined hands in the state in a post-poll alliance. However, the 2014 results changed the equation, relegating the Sena to the role of a junior partner. The two parties have been at constant loggerheads ever since with the Sena often playing the role of an opposition from the treasury benches.
Some gestures on both sides are possible. The Shiv Sena, perhaps not overnight, could begin to scale back its public criticism of its senior partner, with personal attacks ruled out. Its Saamna edits do not conform to any reading of coalition dharma. Its continuance in both governments makes it appear greedy, transactional. 2. Sharing the Assembly seats equally in 2019 is most generous, considering it won half as many seats in October 2014 as the BJP did. Whatever its public posturing, it would get decimated if it fought the next two elections on its own. Even when the opposition is bringing together the most unlikely allies, the Congress would not touch the SS with a barge pole. 3. As a peace offering, some good ministries, perhaps a Governorship, more status accorded on important public functions. There was a time when it was 171 : 117 for the SS and the BJP.
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