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Shiv Sena sends a tough message to BJP, hours before Thackeray-Shah meet

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In its mouthpiece Saamana, the Shiv Sena questions timing of BJP chief Amit Shah’s overtures, reiterates resolve to contest 2019 solo.

Mumbai: Shiv Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray is likely to take a hard line in his meeting with BJP president Amit Shah Wednesday evening, even as the latter attempts to mend fences with a miffed ally.

Hours before the meeting, the Shiv Sena slammed Shah’s drive to reach out to key personalities and the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) allies. It also sent out a stern message, in its mouthpiece, Saamana, that it will not budge from its resolve to contest the 2019 elections independently.

“Petrol prices have shot up in the country, farmers are on strike and with the line of communication between farmers and the government broken, there are attempts to break this strike… In such a situation, Modi is on a communication drive abroad, while Shah is doing the same in the country,” read an editorial in the Saamana.

It also reiterated the party’s decision to fly solo in 2019.

“The Shiv Sena is certainly going to contest 2019 elections independently. The Palghar bypoll result has showcased the Shiv Sena’s independent strength,” said the editorial.

Significance of Shah-Thackeray meeting

The Shiv Sena has been playing the role of an opposition while sitting in Maharashtra’s treasury benches ever since the equation of the saffron alliance changed after the 2014 assembly polls. The Sena, which has 63 seats to the BJP’s 122 in the 288-member House, ended up as the junior partner, from once being the big brother in the alliance.

After a bitterly contested Lok Sabha bypoll in Palghar last month, the Shiv Sena resolved to contest the 2019 polls on its own.

With opposition parties joining forces to defeat the BJP, however, the party’s senior leadership has been making repeated attempts to placate an angry Sena.

In his recent speeches, Shah has referred to the BJP’s willingness for an alliance with the Shiv Sena and is likely to personally extend an olive branch in his meeting with Thackeray Wednesday evening.

BJP leaders have said Shah is scheduled to meet Thackeray as part of the BJP’s ‘Sampark for Samarthan’ programme, a drive to convey the achievements of the NDA government over the past four years. As part of the drive in Mumbai, Shah will also meet industrialist Ratan Tata, singer Lata Mangeshkar and actor Madhuri Dixit.

Sena questions timing of outreach

In the editorial, the Shiv Sena questioned the timing of Shah’s outreach to allies, coming as it does on the back of the BJP’s dismal performance in last month’s by-elections to four parliamentary constituencies and 10 assembly seats.

The BJP was victorious in the Palghar Lok Sabha bypoll, and an NDA ally won the sole Nagaland seat. Besides this, however, the party won just one of the 10 assembly seats.

The two parties were involved in a tooth-and-nail battle in the Palghar Lok Sabha bypoll, nominating deceased BJP MP Chintaman Wanga’s son as its candidate in a bitterly-contested battle, but came second.

“What is Shah exactly going to do by meeting NDA allies? And it is also a major question why he is having these meetings only now, after the BJP suffered massive blows in the recent bypolls,” said the editorial.

It added that unlike the BJP, the Shiv Sena is in constant touch with the masses and doesn’t need any ‘poster boys’ to contest and win elections.

“Primarily, the ruling party’s communication with the people is broken and one must first figure out the reasons why this may have happened,” the Shiv Sena said, adding the biggest “sampark ghotala” (communication scam) can be seen in Bihar where JD(U) leader Nitish Kumar is regretting his party’s tie-up with the BJP. The party said there is a major tussle in the ruling alliance in Bihar on whether to contest polls in the state under the leadership of Kumar or Modi.

“Incidentally, there are many who think that going with the BJP is akin to throttling one’s own independent base,” the Shiv Sena said.

The party said, there are winds of change blowing in BJP-ruled states such as Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh, and a change in leadership in Maharashtra too has become inevitable.

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  1. The fact that the Shiv Sena, unlike Chandrababu Naidu, has not left the governments at the Centre and in the state offers some hope that the alliance can be saved. Absent that, with the Congress and the NCP coming together, neither partner can return to power. If the SS wishes to cut a better deal with the BJP, there are more graceful ways of doing so.

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