Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP), which sees Shiv Sena as its "natural" ally, has not yet given up on its efforts to save the marriage with its bickering partner despite the fact that the Uddhav Thackeray-led party last month decided to contest the 2019 Lok Sabha and Maharashtra Assembly elections on its own.
When Shiv Sena chief and state chief minister Devendra Fadnavis held a closed-door meeting on Thursday at the latter's official residence Varsha in Mumbai, it created a flutter in the political circle and raised eyebrows of many, even though the central point of discussion between the two leaders was the Ratnagiri refinery project in the Konkan region.
However, The Indian Express on Friday quoted some sources as saying that the meet denotes that "Shiv Sena and the BJP have kept their options open for an alliance before the Lok Sabha and state Assembly elections."
The recent meet came days after Shiv Sena parted ways with the BJP on 23 January and decided to go solo for upcoming elections. Fadnavis had, nevertheless, expressed confidence that the BJP-Sena government would last a full term.
"The Sena had said a similar thing in the past. But I am confident the BJP-Sena alliance government will complete its full five-year term in office," Fadnavis had said.
Shiv Sena had said that it would win at least 25 of 48 seats in the Lok Sabha in Maharashtra as well as 125 of the 288 seats in the state Assembly.
Shiv Sena's quest to become big brother in Maharashtra
Shiv Sena and BJP have been engaged in an often fractious relationship and the two have bickered openly, hurled barbs at each other over a number of issues.
From severely criticising demonetisation to releasing the 56-page booklet titled Ghotalebaaz BJP (Scamster BJP), that listed all the "scams" that allegedly took place under the Fadnavis government in Maharashtra, Shiv Sena has been stepping up its attacks against its alliance partner BJP.
The recent among all these rebukes is Shiv Sena's disapproval and bitter opposition to proposed Rs 1.45 lakh crore oil refinery in coastal Maharashtra. Shiv Sena on Thursday said that the project won't be allowed to be "thrust" on the locals there.
"No memorandum of understanding (MoU) for the project has been signed yet. My stand is clear. The project will not be imposed on the locals in any circumstances," Industries Minister Subhash Desai told reporters on Thursday.
As the 2019 Lok Sabha and state Assembly elections are nearing, Shiv Sena is using these tactics to show its alliance partners that it holds all the cards and will emerge as the big brother in Maharashtra. Today, BJP holds 122 seats while Shiv Sena has 63 seats in 288 members Maharashtra state Legislative Assembly.
Last year, the BJP emerged as the clear winner, not only in the BMC elections where it was neck to neck with Shiv Sena in the final tally but in the overall tally of the Maharashtra civic polls also. The BJP had won 471 seats in all 10 municipal corporations where polls were held, gaining majority in 8 out of 10, India Today had reported.
“In a marriage, husband and wife fight. But I want my wife to stay with me. I don’t want a divorce,” a senior BJP leader, trying to woo back former ally Shiv Sena was quoted as saying by News18 on Tuesday.
The comment didn't go well with Shiv Sena and an annoyed Sena leader snapped back immediately saying, “Our party is the husband in this relationship. And there is no question of this divorce being called off.”
BJP knows its weaknesses
Even though BJP has an upper hand in Maharashtra today, the party is fully aware of the fact that it cannot win upcoming Assembly election and come to power without getting support of Shiv Sena. And that is the reason Thursday's meeting was fourth such attempt in a matter of three months to revive the coalition.
Firstpost had earlier reported that BJP leadership wanted to keep the NDA intact and to that effect, its leaders held meetings with Sena leaders in Mumbai, Aurangabad and Delhi. Not only this, the BJP went a step ahead and offered Shiv Sena the chance to contest between 140 and 144 seats in the Assembly polls slated for 2019.
The report further said that the leaders of both parties are now trying to patch up once again considering the fact that it will be tough for them to go it alone against the combined might of the Congress and NCP in the state.
A senior BJP cabinet minister in Maharashtra on Tuesday resonated the same view when he said that his party and its bickering ally Shiv Sena would lose the 2019 Assembly polls if they fight separately.
“A Sena leader close to (Shiv Sena chief) Uddhav Thackeray recently came to my house and we held talks about an alliance. Preserving the alliance is a necessity for both the parties, because if the Congress and NCP fight together and we fight separately, both (saffron) parties will lose. If we come together, we will win around 190 seats (out of 288),” the minister told PTI on the condition of anonymity.
As the polls near, the two parties might find some amicable solution to get together.
With inputs from agencies
Updated Date: Feb 16, 2018 15:46 PM