MUMBAI: Hours after Shiv Sena mouthpiece Saamna threw a googly claiming the party would go it alone in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, Sena boss Uddhav Thackeray hosted BJP chief Amit Shah at his Matoshree residence in Mumbai on Wednesday.
BJP sources described the meeting as positive, saying it was the first step towards reducing mutual tension. A few more such meetings are expected before a possible formal alliance, a state minister indicated.
Assuring the Sena that its concerns would be addressed, the BJP side is understood to have sought unconditional support for Prime Minister Narendra Modi in the bargain.
While contentious issues during the past four years were discussed by both sides, the Sena sought an assurance that its ‘numero uno’ status in the state would be accepted by the BJP.
Sources said Uddhav would call a meeting of senior party leaders to discuss the outcome and the way forward.
That Shah spent over two hours at Matoshree came as a surprise to most observers, as they had expected the meeting to be wrapped up within about half-an-hour.
Accompanied by Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis, Shah entered Matoshree around 7.45 pm and left at 10.10 pm. Uddhav and Shah had a closed-door meeting for about half-an-hour in the beginning after which Sena heir apparent Aditya Thackeray and Fadnavis joined them. Dinner followed, with Shah being served Gujarati cuisines.
Following Sena’s objections, state BJP president Raosaheb Danve stayed away from the meeting. From Shiv Sena’s side, Saamna’s executive editor and member of Rajya Sabha Sanjay Raut was kept away due to Shah’s intense dislike for him.
Maharashtra cultural minister Vinod Tawde reached Matoshree after the meetings started and stayed there till end without participating in the interactions.
Before visiting Matoshree, Shah had worked on building the atmospherics in an interview to a Marathi channel, saying the BJP would contest not just the 2019 but even 2024 Lok Sabha polls in alliance with the Shiv Sena.
The meeting came at a time when Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) strongman Sharad Pawar is learnt to have opened channels with Uddhav for a pre-poll alliance.
Shah’s outreach also came amid the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) calling upon allies to gear up for a “war-like situation” to deal with the challenges of the 2019 elections. “We need to strengthen NDA. We should resolve our differences to emerge victorious in 2019,” SAD chief Sukhbir Badal said. Shah is set to meet Badal Sr on Thursday.
Gets to meet Madhuri, Tata, but not Lata
BJP chief Amit Shah met Madhuri Dixit-Nene and her family at her Juhu home and thereafter ace industrialist Ratan Tata. He was also scheduled to meet Lata Mangeshkar, but she declined it citing ill health