A day after state BJP chief Chandrakant Patil asked party workers to stop calling him a former minister, Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray used the term ‘future friend’ for BJP minister Raosaheb Danve at a public function in Aurangabad, sparking off speculation of a reunion between erstwhile allies Shiv Sena and BJP to form the government in Maharashtra. However, the Shiv Sena, which is leading the Maha Vikas Aghadi government with its new allies -- the NCP and the Congress --, immediately clarified that Thackeray’s reference to Danve as his ‘future friend’ meant that ‘some from the BJP could join’ the ruling establishment in Maharashtra.
Thackeray began his speech by referring to Danve as “my former friend - and if we come together again, then future friend.’’ However, during his speech, he made it amply clear that he was only joking, as he had met his old friend Raosaheb Danve after a long time.
Thackeray made loaded remarks in his speech in Danve’s presence. “I like the railways for one reason. You cannot leave the tracks and change direction. Yes, but if there is a diversion you can come to our station. But the engine does not leave the tracks,” he said.
Danve, a BJP MP from Jalna, later said that the Shiv Sena and the BJP shared the same ideology. He further noted that it would be decided whether or not Thackeray would continue as the CM of Sena-BJP government only after talks between the two parties.
Thackeray’s statement comes at a time when rifts have surfaced among the ruling partners, over alleged scams and corruption cases and the ongoing probes by Central investigating agencies.
Shiv Sena MP Sanjay Raut said, “The CM meant that ‘some from the BJP might come to MVA. Those who were on stage and those BJP people who say that they should not be called ex-ministers could go to any of the three parties of MVA.”
“The CM meant that some from the BJP might come to Maha Vikas Aghadi. We won’t go anywhere,” Raut said.
However, the BJP, after a bitter break-up in 2019 over the 50:50 power-sharing formula, and obviously desiring a patch-up, read more into Thackeray’s statement. In June, the CM’s one-on-one meeting with Prime Minister Narendra Modi had ignited talk of a realignment in Maharashtra.
Leader of the Opposition in the state assembly Devendra Fadnavis said that Thackeray may have realised that the Shiv Sena’s alliance with NCP and Congress was unnatural and it would not last long. “In politics, anything can happen any time. Uddhavji has spoken our ‘Mann Ki Baat’. It feels good to hear this,” the BJP leader said, borrowing the title of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s monthly radio show.
However, state NCP chief and Water Resources Minister Jayant Patil claimed Thackeray was speaking in a lighter vein and that the Sena-NCP and Congress government was stable and would complete its tenure. Patil said it seemed as though state BJP chief Chandrakant Patil and Danve would be joining the Shiv Sena and therefore, the CM may have used the term ‘future friend’.
State Congress chief Nana Patole downplayed Thackeray’s statement. “The Chief Minister sometimes likes to crack jokes and that is exactly what he did. This government will complete its full five-year term. There is no problem with the government in Maharashtra,” said Patole, whose recent comments about the Congress fighting elections on its own had caused tension in the MVA alliance.