BJP president Amit Shah on Wednesday failed to get Shiv Sena back into the NDA fold for 2019 Lok Sabha election.
Shah met Shiv Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray as part of the ‘Sampark for Samarthan’ (Contact for Support) campaign on Wednesday. The two-hour meeting was a special case: the BJP is meeting all other NDA constituents today (Thursday, June 6) to sort out any issues or differences and work out arrangements for fighting 2019 Lok Sabha polls together.
Thackeray, however, did not budge. The Shiv Sena stuck to its stance of fighting elections on its own. BJP’s embarrassment at its master tactician Shah’s failure was apparent in the silence of the party on the outcome of the meeting. Even much of the news media refrained from reporting it.
However, a few media outlets reported Shiv Sena MP and spokesperson Sanjay Raut as telling mediapersons that his party had not changed its stance.
“The decision to contest all elections in future was taken by the party’s National Executive. How can any outsider come and influence it?” Raut said.
However, he said Thackeray will make the party’s stand clear at his public meeting scheduled later on Thursday in Palghar, the Lok Sabha seat won by the BJP last week, which saw relations between the two allies plummet to an all-time low.
To drive home the point further, said media reports, the Sena has announced its candidates for the Maharashtra Legislative Council elections to Mumbai and Konkan Graduates Constituencies.
The BJP has also declared its candidates for the 25 June polls.
On its part, the BJP has displayed an air of confidence, with several leaders optimistic that the two oldest allies will join hands not only for the Lok Sabha but also the Maharashtra Assembly elections, both scheduled in 2019.
A report by news agency ANI, in fact, ran a report quoting BJP sources saying ” Amit Shah-Uddhav Thackeray meeting turns out ‘positive’.
“Shah and Thackeray held a ‘positive’ meeting at the latter’s residence ‘Matoshree’ in Mumbai, said BJP sources on Wednesday,” ANI reported.
“Meeting between BJP and Shiv Sena at ‘Matoshree’ was positive. This is the beginning of reducing tensions between both the parties. Two or three meetings are expected to happen in the coming days,” BJP sources told ANI, said the report.
In another ANI report, however, Sanjay Raut was quoted as saying, “We know what the agenda of Amit Shah ji is but Shiv Sena has passed a resolution that we’ll contest all upcoming elections on our own. There will be no change in that resolution.”
The signs were there even before the meeting. Hours before the crucial meeting between BJP national president Amit Shah and Shiv Sena supremo Uddhav Thackeray on Monday, the junior partner of the ruling coalition at the Centre and in Maharashtra took a jibe at the BJP’s ‘Sampark for Samarthan’ campaign, calling it ‘too little, too late’.
A report in FinancialExpress.com quoted Sena spokesperson Sanjay Raut as saying that the BJP should have done this much earlier and attributed the latest outreach on part of the senior partner as a fallout of its drubbing in bypolls.
“For ‘sampark’ we had to wait for four years… and to start this ‘sampark abhiyan’, BJP had to lose several bypolls,” he said, asserting that there was no change in the Shiv Sena’s stand that it will fight the 2019 Lok Sabha elections alone.
To a question on whether the party will give its decision a second thought if Shah seeks Shiv Sena’s support for 2019 Lok Sabha polls, he replied, “We have taken a decision that in 2019 Shiv Sena will contest independently. Our party has taken a decision we are firm on our party’s stand.”
Relations between the two parties have been strained and ties between the two alliance partners deteriorated further following Sena’s defeat in the Palghar Lok Sabha bypolls, prompting an angry Sena to describe the BJP as its ‘biggest political enemy’.
For the time being, the Sena continues to be a part of the NDA governments in Maharashtra and the Centre. The Shiv Sena has 12 Ministers (5 Cabinet ranks and 7 MoS ranks) in the Devendra Fadnavis government in Maharashtra. In the Narendra Modi government at the Centre, the party has just one representation – Anant Geete, the Minister of Heavy Industries and Public Enterprises.