Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray on Tuesday set to rest speculation about the Shiv Sena rejoining hands with its estranged ally Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) to form the government in Maharashtra, ditching its current allies, the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) and Congress. For the first time after his recent closed-door meeting with Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Thackeray ruled out the possibility of a patch-up with the BJP as was recently urged by his party legislator Pratap Sarnaik ‘to stop harassment from Central investigating agencies’ and contesting the impending civic body elections together.
“Nothing happened in 30 years with the BJP (when they were allies in Maharashtra). So, there is no possibility now,” said Thackeray. The CM, who was flanked by Deputy Chief Minister Ajit Pawar and Revenue Minister Balasaheb Thorat during the media briefing, joked, “I am caught in the middle. Will they allow me now?” He also denied any talks with BJP either directly or through backchannel diplomacy.
A visibly relaxed Thackeray also indicated that the Maha Vikas Aghadi government was strong and stable and he was firmly in the saddle. He also indicated that he was enjoying the partnership with the NCP and Congress, despite MVA leaders being under the CBI or ED scanner. Thackeray’s outright declaration will hopefully cause the BJP to put on hold its plans for Operation Lotus, but it will continue to target the MVA government.
Thackeray’s statement is crucial as there were media reports that the BJP-led government at the Centre had delayed its cabinet expansion plans, waiting for the Shiv Sena’s decision on ‘re-marriage’, as the saffron party would have been accommodated with ministerial berths at the Centre, with the BJP-Sena repeating a Bihar in the state. Party insiders point out that Thackeray does not want to lose his freedom and authority by yielding to BJP pressure but instead, wants to enjoy power with new partners, while keeping personal relations with Modi.
Thackeray chose to clarify his stand days after Leader of the Opposition Devendra Fadnavis had said that the BJP and Shiv Sena are not enemies but there are ideological differences between the two. “There are no ifs and buts in politics. Decisions are taken according to the prevailing circumstances. Remember that Shiv Sena fought elections with us and after the results, joined hands with Congress and NCP,” he had said.
Shiv Sena MP Sanjay Raut clarified that even though his party has parted ways with BJP, the friendship between the two parties remains. To explain his point, Raut cited the example of the post-divorce relationship between actor Aaamir Khan and Kiran Rao.