By Sanjay Sawant
In the clearest indication yet of increasing distance between the BJP and its ally, Shiv Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray has not been invited to any of the ‘Make in India’ initiative events to be held in Mumbai where Prime Minister Narendra Modi will be present, including a gala dinner on 13 February.
Though the Sena chief will reportedly take part in ‘other programmes’, his exclusion from a dinner which will be attended by more than 800 dignitaries including prime ministers of various countries, several chief ministers, top politicians and business tycoons is being perceived as a definite snub.
The BJP, though, tried to explain the situation as a “matter of protocol”.
“There would be guests from foreign countries and prime ministers from various countries like Sweden, Finland and Lithuania. It was not in the protocol to invite Uddhav Thackeray,” a BJP leader said.
Sena isn’t buying the explanation though.
On Thackeray’s absence from the dinner, a senior Shiv Sena leader said: “Uddhav ji has not been invited. Times have changed. When Atal Bihari Vajpayee was the prime minister, Balasaheb (the late Sena supremo) was frequently invited and they used to dine together.
“They shared the dais on many occasions such as program of the Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj International Airport Mumbai Terminal. Protocol didn’t matter then. Vajpayee was the tallest leader,” he added.
The Prime Minister will arrive in Mumbai on Saturday to inaugurate the ‘Make in India’ event at the MMRDA grounds in Bandra Kurla Complex (BKC) followed by an event at National Sports Club (NSC) ground in Worli.
Industry Minister and Sena leader Subhash Desai confirmed that Thackeray won’t be present at the dinner but will attend three Make in India events which include a cultural program and seminar on Mumbai.
“Uddhav ji will be unavailable for the dinner due to other commitments,” he told Firstpost, a claim later belied by sources who indicate that the Sena supremo is “angry with BJP’s style of functioning and sidelining in the name of protocol.”
The dinner rebuff is yet another of instance of BJP snubbing the Sena. During the laying of foundation stone for Ambedkar memorial, BJP chose not to invite Uddhav citing the same reason — protocol.
The marker for 2017 BMC elections has been laid. It looks increasingly likely that BJP and its longstanding ally, Shiv Sena, will battle it out against each other.