Chocolates, Lift Encounters And More: Is BJP Trying To Patch Up With Uddhav Sena?

Krishna Dange

Jul 07, 2024, 11:59 AM | Updated 11:59 AM IST

Senior Maharashtra BJP leader and Cabinet Minister Chandrakant Patil with MVA constituent Shiv Sena (UBT) chief Uddhav Thackeray.
Senior Maharashtra BJP leader and Cabinet Minister Chandrakant Patil with MVA constituent Shiv Sena (UBT) chief Uddhav Thackeray.
  • “Once upon a time, all brothers lived together happily in one house. For some reasons, some of them decided to part ways. This doesn’t mean that the feeling of affection between them has died out.” 
  • Leaders from the coalition of opposition parties in Maharashtra — Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) have been putting up a picture of unity after it succeeded in pulling down the Lok Sabha seat share of the ruling National Democratic Alliance (NDA), also known as Mahayuti, in Maharashtra from 43 in 2019 to 17 in 2024.

    Irrespective of what the MVA as well as the ruling Mahayuti might like to portray, moves of its members are being observed closely since elections to the 288 seats of the state assembly are supposed to be held in October, only three months from now.

    In this context, senior Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader and State Legislative Affairs Minister Chandrakant Patil’s recent supposed overtures towards the Shiv Sena (UBT) are being seen as an attempt by the saffron party to wean away the latter from the MVA and patch up with the its party chief Uddhav Thackeray.

    Chronology Of BJP Leader’s Gestures To Uddhav Sena Leaders

    In the ongoing session of the state assembly and the state council, its last before the polls, Patil’s visit to the chamber allotted to Shiv Sena (UBT) in the state legislature building created a flutter among political observers. 

    In the party chamber, Patil greeted Shiv Sena (UBT) chief Thackeray and party leader Ambadas Danve and Anil Parab with chocolates. Thackeray along with the Uddhav Sena leaders reciprocated the gesture by offering Patil sweets and requested him to sit down for a chat. 

    Since this interaction was broadcast soon on regional news channels, Patil was later asked by the press whether this exchange of greetings was a precursor to both parties coming together. To this, the BJP leader said, “Once upon a time, all brothers lived together happily in one house. For some reasons, some of them decided to part ways. This doesn’t mean that the feeling of affection between them has died out.” 

    The one house and brothers staying together and splitting later being an analogy to the alliance between the BJP and the undivided Shiv Sena of the past which was led by Thackeray. The parties had fought the 2019 Lok Sabha elections as well as the state assembly polls together. 

    However, after supposedly being denied the post of Chief Minister, Thackeray led Sena broke away from the alliance within a week after the poll results were declared and joined hands with the Congress and the undivided NCP of the past. Later, in 2022, Thackeray formed Shiv Sena (UBT) after the present Chief Minister of the state Eknath Shinde wrested control of the party from him and formed the ruling government with the BJP. 

    If this wasn’t enough a trigger to generate rumours on the possibility of the BJP and Uddhav Sena coming together, a brief encounter between senior BJP leader and Deputy Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis and Shiv Sena (UBT) leader Thackeray ended up accentuating the speculations. 

    From what can be discerned from the footage telecast by news channels, both — Fadanvis and Thackeray — are seen to have bumped into each other as they approached the elevator on the ground floor of the legislature building. Both were then seen greeting each other and laughing over jokes. 

    When asked about the same by the press, Thackeray said, “After seeing me and Fadnavis together, people might think that something on the lines of na na karte pyar tumhise kar baithe must be happening between our parties. But that is not the case.”

    Since this exchange of pleasantries between Patil and Thackeray first and later between Fadnavis and Thackeray took place on the same day, state BJP leaders were seen playing down the significance of the events. 

    BJP’s Member of Legislative Council (MLC) Prasad Lad claimed that Patil had gone to meet Sena leader and MVA’s Leader of Opposition (LO) Danve to honour the tradition where the State Legislative Minister informally meets LO before the onset of the legislature session and that Thackeray just happened to be there during Patil’s visit. With regards to the meeting between Fadnavis and Thackeray, they claimed that it was "a pure coincidence".

    Even if one accepts that the first two instances of BJP leaders interacting with Thackeray does not necessarily mean that the two parties are trying to bury the hatchet, what doesn’t add up is the third instance which again involved senior BJP leader Patil and Uddhav Sena leader Danve.

    On 2 July, when BJP MLC Lad demanded the state’s legislative council to condemn Congress leader Rahul Gandhi’s recent supposedly ‘anti-Hindu’ remarks, Uddhav Sena’s Danve defended the Congress leader by using abusive words directed towards Lad. 

    On the same day, State Legislative Affairs Minister Patil on the demand of BJP MLCs in the Council, proposed a resolution to suspend Danve since words used by him are said to have never been uttered by anyone in both houses before. This was passed with majority approval.

    However, only two days later on 4 July, it was Patil again who tabled a resolution to reduce Danve’s suspension from five to three days. 

    State BJP Leadership In Two Minds Over Possibility Of Alliance With Uddhav

    A Pune-based BJP spokesperson, on condition of anonymity, said there are few BJP leaders of a moderate temperament like Chandrakant Patil who feel that differences with Thackeray can be sorted out and that the party could have tried different means to keep him and the undivided Sena of the past within Mahayuti.

    “In the recently held Lok Sabha elections, although Shinde-led Shiv Sena’s strike rate (of 7 out of 15) was better than Uddhav Sena (9 out of 21), it was expected that Uddhav Sena would be decimated. 

    “But since that didn’t happen and there are many elections ahead in the state this year, moderates within the BJP are trying to repair the relations between the BJP and the Uddhav Sena to be prepared for a possibility of the central BJP leadership asking Devendra ji (that is, Deputy CM Fadnavis) and others to negotiate an alliance with Thackeray,” the BJP spokesperson said.

    “However, considering the not so pleasant experience of dealing with Thackeray in the past when his party was a part of the ruling alliance between 2014 and 2019, and would constantly pick up fights with the BJP, Fadnavis and those close to him may not be open to joining hands with Thackeray again. 

    “This is more so since undivided Sena of the past under Balasaheb Thackeray and later his son Uddhav always claimed a bigger share in terms of seats and ministerial berths by claiming that it was the ‘motha bhau’ that is, the elder brother in Mahayuti.

    "Also Devendra ji has clearly said that he won't ditch Eknath Shinde who took control of the Shiv Sena from Thackeray on the grounds that the latter was deviating from the Hindutva by cutting ties with the BJP and allying with opposition parties. All in all, the situation continues to be tricky and since nothing is permanent in politics, anything can happen ahead,” the BJP spokesperson added.

    Staff Writer at Swarajya

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