South Asian Insider
Amit Shah to meet Uddhav Thackeray today to lay ground for poll tie-up
The Shah-Thackeray meeting assumes significance as the top BJP leadership has initiated the process of reconciling political differences with its alliance partners in the NDA to present a grand alliance in the 2019 elections. BJP president Amit Shah will meet Shiv Sena president Uddhav Thackeray on Wednesday, setting the stage for possible pre-poll alliance talks ahead of the crucial 2019 Lok Sabha elections. Shah will meet Thackeray at his residence Matoshree, Mumbai. Shah, who is on an outreach programme in Mumbai, is also expected to meet several prominent personalities from diverse fields, including veteran singer Lata Mangeshkar, industrialist Ratan Tata and actor Madhuri Dixit. Later, Shah will visit Varsha, the official residence of Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis. He is scheduled to have a meeting with Fadnavis and BJP general secretary (organisation) Vijay Puranik. The Shah-Thackeray meeting assumes significance as the top BJP leadership has initiated the process of reconciling political differences with its alliance partners in the NDA to present a grand alliance in the 2019 elections. Officially, the BJP described the Shah-Thackeray meeting as part of the “networking and expansion drive launched across country”. The Shiv Sena described it as a courtesy call. Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis will accompany Shah to Matoshree. Senior BJP minister Sudhir Mungantiwar said, “Shah’s meeting with Thackeray is part of the party’s national drive, ‘Sampark for Samarthan’ (contact for support).” He added, “The meeting has nothing to do with the recent bitterness between the parties in the bypolls in Palghar or Bhandara-Gondia.” “The BJP and Sena are not at war. They are part of the coalition government both at the Centre and the state. What is so surprising if two top leaders meet,” he said. A senior BJP functionary requesting anonymity said, “It is no secret that the BJP is keen on a pre-poll alliance with the Sena, which was voiced by Shah thrice in the last three months from public forums. When Shah goes all the way to Matoshree, it will be with an offer to the Shiv Sena to consider the proposal for a pre-poll pact to keep the Opposition parties away from the Centre and the state.” Thackeray’s close aide Harshal Pradhan said, “The doors of Matoshree are wide open for one and all. We have always given due respect to whoever walked to Matoshree to greet Uddhavsaheb.” However, he clarified that there was no political agenda behind the meeting. Shiv Sena MP Sanjay Raut, a hard critic of BJP leaders, said, “The BJP has sought the appointment for a meeting with Uddhavji. Therefore, agenda is of BJP and not Sena.” He indicated that on matters related to political alliances, final decision will be taken by Thackeray. Notwithstanding the official explanations, both sides admitted that relations between the BJP and the Sena had soured in the last four years. A BJP source said, “Shiv Sena showed no refrain from sparing even Prime Minister Narendra Modi when it came to use of derogatory language to criticise the policies at the Centre. They continued to use inhouse newspaper Saamana to attack the prime minister and other leaders at the Centre and in the state.” However, a Sena leader countered, “The BJP after getting absolute power has given us secondary treatment in decision making which has hurt our ego.” When asked to respond on what would be the impact of the Shah-Thackeray meeting, a BJP poll manager said, “A pre-poll alliance is important to avoid division of votes. It would also dent the efforts of Congress to dent the NDA. Secondly, the BJP reckons that the Congress cannot align with the Sena even if saffron partners contest the elections separately.” A senior Sena minister said, “By opening our doors for Shah, we are also keeping all options open for the 2019 elections. It will also boost our workers when we fight together against the Opposition.”
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