Mumbai: “In a marriage, husband and wife fight. But I want my wife to stay with me. I don’t want a divorce,” said a senior BJP leader, trying to woo back former ally Shiv Sena. An annoyed Sena leader snapped back immediately, “Our party is the husband in this relationship. And there is no question of this divorce being called off.”
These exchanges are the part of the ‘counselling sessions’ both parties are attending as the BJP leaves no stone unturned to convince its long-term ally to stay in the coalition in Maharashtra.
According to highly placed sources in the BJP, preliminary talks have taken place between select Sena leaders close to Uddhav Thackeray, and some Maharashtra BJP leaders. The aim is to convince the party to agree to an amicable seat sharing formula that will not hamper the interest of either parties.
Stung by the NDA coalition partners walking away from it, the BJP fears the coming elections might be an uphill task for it. The prospects of Congress and NCP joining hands and the anti-incumbency factor are also causing anxiety.
The Shiv Sena has so far maintained that it will fight the elections on its own. “In Shiv Sena, only one person takes all the decisions. And that is Uddhav Thackeray. He has reiterated that we will fight and win the coming elections single-handedly. Talks, if any, with any other leaders, will yield no fruits,” a senior party leader said.
The leader added that there is no possibility of reconciliation now. “The doors of return have been long shut. Our national executive has taken this decision, and there is no way of changing it now,” he added.
But another senior leader offered a way out and said for any talks to take place, Prime Minister Narendra Modi or BJP chief Amit Shah will have to come to Matoshree to visit Uddhav Thackeray.
The BJP, on its part, has been trying to change Shiv Sena’s stand from the day the party announced it. “On the day Uddhav Thackeray announced that the party will fight the parliamentary and assembly elections by itself, a senior cabinet minister met Uddhav Thackeray. He told the Shiv Sena president that the party should rethink about its stand,” he said.
At the time, Uddhav told the senior BJP minister that his party felt upset that BJP was troubling its old ally and the BJP minister replied that this impression was wrong. “If some members of the party are not being good, that does not mean that the entire party can be blamed,” the leader is learnt to have told Uddhav.
Thereafter, preliminary rounds of talks have taken place between two-three Shiv Sena leaders known to be close to Uddhav. It is noteworthy that Sanjay Raut, editor of Saamana newspaper, was not a part of these meetings. The paper is known to spew venom against BJP on every chance it gets.
Political sources said that the BJP is aware that the Modi wave that helped it win the last election in the state is ebbing and the BJP can’t deny the possibility of anti-incumbency in Maharashtra. “Even then, if all four big parties – the Congress, NCP, BJP and Shiv Sena, fight elections separately, the BJP can still win hands down. But if the Congress and NCP join hands, the BJP will find it almost impossible to make it single-handedly. Looking at the sheer statistics, it makes sense to have alliance with Shiv Sena,” a senior BJP leader said candidly.