On his maiden visit to Mumbai after his elevation as BJP's election campaign committee chief, Narendra Modi today reached out to Shiv Sena, which had slammed him for his "parochial" rescue efforts for Gujaratis in flood-hit Uttarakhand, meeting its leader Uddhav Thackeray.
The Gujarat chief minister, who is not on best of terms with Uddhav and is considered closer to his estranged cousin MNS chief Raj Thackeray, called on the Sena president at his residence 'Matoshree' in suburban Bandra.
A battery of senior state BJP leaders including its state president Devendra Fadnavis, Leader of Opposition in the Legislative Council Vinod Tawde and Mumbai BJP president Ashish Shelar were also present.
Though what transpired during the 20-minute meeting was not known, a senior BJP leader present there said it was a courtesy call by Modi.
Shiv Sena mouthpiece 'Saamana' had on Tuesday assailed Modi over his rescue efforts for Gujaratis in Uttarakhand, terming it as "parochial", and said Maharashtra Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan was "large-hearted" in this mammoth task.
Reacting to claims that Modi and his team had rescued 15,000 marooned Gujaratis on a single day, Uddhav said in an editorial that the Gujarat chief minister should have desisted from such action at a time when he was aspiring to become his party's prime ministerial candidate.
"When Modi is being cheered as the likely prime ministerial candidate, it is detrimental to take a stance that he only thinks for the people of Gujarat. In times of disaster, one has to have a national thinking and not parochial or regional views," Uddhav had said.
Uddhav had, however, done a U-turn later, saying he did not mean to criticise Modi and that the editorial targeted the Gujarat leader's propaganda machinery.
"The criticism was not against Modi but his propaganda folks. The opposition is not for Modi but the wrong way in which his work was publicised," he said, adding, "Modi has done good work."
Modi's courtesy call to Uddhav is being seen as an attempt to keep Sena, its oldest ally with whom it had run a coalition government in Maharashtra between 1995 and 1999, in good humour and project a picture that the NDA, reduced to a three-member alliance with the exit of JD(U), was in no danger of disintegrating further. Shiromani Akali Dal is another partner in the opposition alliance.
A day before Uddhav targeted Modi over his "Rambo" act in Uttarakhand, in another editorial in 'Saamana', he had demanded that BJP explain its plan to bring in new allies in order to present any real challenge to Centre's ruling UPA.
"Friends don't grow like trees, they have to be nurtured. How does one get friends if one chops off the branches of the tree which till now provided fruits, flowers and shade," he asked.
"Once, there were 25 to 30 parties in NDA. Now, hardly three remain. Earlier, even the hall in Advani's home was not enough to hold its meetings. Now, a table and four chairs are enough," he said.
"In Maharashtra, there is Shiv Sena and would be with BJP on the issue of Hindutva. But who else is there in other states? Will Mamata go with BJP in West Bengal? Will Naveen Patnaik rejoin the NDA fold? Will Yeddyurappa be appeased? Will Jagan Reddy go with BJP? Which 'Dravida' parties in south are with us?
"Jayalalitha is friends with Modi but will she join NDA? If answers to such questions come in time, only then the number of friends will increase and lead to a majority (for NDA) in the Lok Sabha," Uddhav said, highlighting the significance of BJP patriarch L K Advani's advice to the party leadership to have new friends.
Uddhav has also been critical of the move by former BJP president Nitin Gadkari and Republican Party of India leader Ramdas Athawale to rope in MNS into the alliance.
"Nitin Gadkari, Gopinath Munde, Devendra Fadnavis and now Ramdas Athawale have all invited MNS to be a part of our grand alliance. People want to defeat Congress. However, they don't want a tasteless khichdi. They want a stable government and the Sena-led alliance has that capability, Uddhav had said last month.
A section in the BJP led by Gadkari has been trying to forge a bigger front to take on the Congress in Maharashtra and see Raj Thackeray, who has good equation with Modi, as a potential ally.
Having lost JD(U), BJP has on its hand the onerous task of retaining time-tested friends while it looks for new allies as Modi leads the party's challenge in elections to various state assemblies later this year the general elections next year.