MUMBAI: IN what’s perhaps a first-of-its-kind political development, Shiv Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray has been invited by Prime Minister Narendra Modi for a dinner in New Delhi. Though the invitation is speculated to be part of the BJP’s preparations for the Presidential election, it may also be aimed at straightening up the strained relationship between the ruling alliance in Maharashtra.
Representatives of all NDA partners are expected to attend the dinner, which is scheduled for March 29, a senior BJP minister said.
Though there has been no official word from the Sena camp regarding the invitation as yet, a senior party functionary said that Uddhav might honour the invitation as it has come directly from the Prime Minister. Generally, Union minister Anant Gite or Rajya Sabha MPs Sanjay Raut or Anil Desai represent the Shiv Sena at NDA meetings. If Uddhav Thackeray attends the dinner, it would be yet another first in the NDA’s history.
After a thumping victory in Uttar Pradesh, the BJP’s worries regarding gathering enough votes for its Presidential candidate have come down. The party is also eyeing support from the AIADMK and BJD. This means that the BJP won’t have to depend on the Shiv Sena for its support in the Presidential election. Yet, they are being invited as they are our natural allies and also the oldest allies, said the BJP minister.
Interestingly, the Shiv Sena too has hardly ever toed the NDA line in the Presidential elections, except during the election of Dr APJ Abdul Kalam. The Shiv Sena had backed UPA candidates Pratibha Patil and Pranab Mukherjee. Uddhav also had a meeting with Mukherjee recently.
Against this backdrop, the invitation to Uddhav for the NDA meet is being given more importance, said a BJP leader. Also, relations between the Shiv Sena and the BJP, which were strained during the 2014 Assembly elections in Maharashtra, hit a new low during the municipal polls.
It has been speculated since then that the Shiv Sena might pull out of the State government, forcing the BJP to go for mid-term polls.
These speculations intensified earlier this month when the Shiv Sena joined the opposition Congress and NCP over the demand for a crop loan waiver.
Though the Shiv Sena endorsed the State budget and appears to have shelved its demand for loan waiver for the time being, the BJP leadership might be wanting to ensure longevity of Shiv Sena’s support, said another BJP leader.