Mumbai: In an effort to reach out to its oldest but most aggressively critical alliance partner, BJP president Amit Shah met Shiv Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray on Wednesday evening at his residence in Mumbai to discuss the problems in the alliance.
The BJP and the Sena chief spent over an hour discussing issues in a one-on-one meeting at Matoshree, as Uddhav Thackeray’s son Aditya Thackeray and Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis waited outside.
Amit Shah then joined the Thackerays for a home-cooked Maharashtrian meal.
Sources say Uddhav Thackeray raised several issues including the lack of the NDA coordination meeting that was a regular feature in the Vajpayee-era. He also brought up several complaints against the state leadership of the BJP including how Shiv Sena ministers were not given importance and sometimes completely ignored.
“The meeting was positive. This is the beginning of reducing tensions between both the parties. More meetings are being planned in the coming days to improve relations”, BJP sources said.
However, the issue of fighting elections together in 2019 remains unresolved, as Uddhav Thackeray did not commit to Amit Shah on that issue, sources said. If the parties decide to fight elections separately it will result in an advantage for the Congress and Sharad Pawar’s Nationalist Congress Party or NCP which are working on a pre-poll alliance to take on the saffron parties.
According to sources, the Sena chief told Amit Shah if the BJP’s attitude changes then he would discuss the matter with Sena leaders and take a call.
Uddhav Thackeray also raised the farmers’ issues in the meeting, according to sources. Agricultural distress is a huge issue in Maharashtra and the Sena has taken on the BJP several times on it.
The meeting comes after the allies fought a bitterly contested by-election in the parliamentary constituency of Palghar near Mumbai last week that the BJP won. On Wednesday morning, the Sena once again attacked the BJP and Amit Shah, ahead of the scheduled meeting.
Ties between the BJP and the Shiv Sena — co-governing Maharashtra since 2014 — have touched rock-bottom over the past few years. Amid daily attacks at the BJP and Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the Sena has declared that it will go it alone in next year’s national polls.