Mumbai: The new political alignment in in the State was clearly visible on the seventh death anniversary of Shiv Sena founder late Balasaheb Thackeray on Sunday.
So, for the first time, leaders of the Congress and the Nationalist Congress Party went out of the way to pay homage to Bal Thackeray, both through messages and by making personal visits to Shiv Tirth, the memorial at Shivaji Park in Dadar west.
As against this, the BJP and the Shiv Sena leaders studiously avoided each otherFormer Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis -- who earlier in the day tweeted "Balasaheb has taught us self-respect" – did not go inside the Thackeray memorial where several Uddhav and others were present, but quickly left when some Shiv Sainiks were heard shouting, 'Mee punha yaeen' (I will return), the poll slogan of Fadnavis, who had asserted that he will be the chief minister of Maharashtra. They were also seen shouting in Marathi: Sarkar kunauchi. Shiv Sena chi (whose government? Shiv Sena's)"
Fadnavis and his entourage, which included several senior BJP leaders, moved on without reacting to the taunts. Earlier in the day, Fadnavis had tweeted a video containing some of the late Sena patriarch's rousing speeches – as if to remind the Sena of its Hindutva moorings.
Those BJP leaders who were in the wait and watch mode, hoping against hope that for sake of Hindutva the two saffron allies will reconcile their differences, were sorely disappointed.
A grim reminder of their estranged relations came when the Sena skipped the BJP-led NDA meet in Delhi. The break would be formalised when the Sena MPS take their seats on the Opposition benches in Parliament.
NCP President Sharad Pawar, who was in Pune for a party meeting, paid rich tributes to Bal Thackeray with whom he shared a warm and personal friendship.
"Balasaheb Thackeray raised his voice for the self-respect and pride of 'Marathi Manoos'. He was a courageous personality and a unique orator who enjoyed the endless affection of his followers.
We bow before him," Pawar said. Both the NCP and the Congress are walking on eggshells and avoiding making any references to Hindutva. The common minimum programme, too, has skirted all Hindutva issues.
But whether the Congress has decided to hitch its wagon to a Thackeray-led government remains to be seen. This, in turn, has ignited buzz that the Congress would prefer if a non-Thackeray heads the government.
Sena's Rajya Sabha MP Sanjay Raut merely said: Shiv Sena will soon realise its dream of having its own chief minister, as promised to Balasaheb, but avoided mentioning whether it would be a Thackeray.
To give final touches to the alliance with Sena, Congress interim President Sonia Gandhi and NCP President Sharad Pawar are scheduled to meet in New Delhi on Tuesday, senior NCP leader Ajit Pawar said. They were earlier scheduled to meet on Sunday.
A stunned BJP, meanwhile, keeps harping on the fact that it will form the government as it has the backing of 105 MLAs.