Bharatiya Janata Party president Amit Shah on Wednesday met sulking ally Shiv Sena President Uddhav Thackeray in Mumbai during his visit to the Maharashtra capital as part of his party’s new initiative, “Sampark for Samarthan”, prior to the 2019 Lok Sabha elections.
The meeting took place at Matoshree, the residence of Uddhav Thackeray in Bandra East, late evening.
He was accompanied by Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis. Uddhav Thackeray’s son Aaditya Thackeray was present too.
There had been intense political speculation over the meeting, which was their second in a year and the first after the acrimonious Palghar Lok Sabha bypoll.
On Wednesday, after the initial exchange of pleasantries, Shah and Thackeray remained closeted for over an hour.
With Sena already declaring that it will fight the next year’s Parliamentary elections solo, Shah was expected to mollify Uddhav Thackeray and convince him to support the BJP and Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
Hours before the meeting, Sena mouthpieces Saamana and Dopahar Ka Saamana questioned what the BJP hoped to achieve by its ‘Sampark for Samarthan’ programme.
“The prime minister is touring the world and BJP chief Amit Shah is going around the country as part of their ‘sampark’ programme. Shah will be meeting NDA allies. However, what exactly will he do? Why is he meeting at this juncture when the BJP has suffered defeat in bypolls,” the Sena asked in one of the editorials.
While there was no official word from both the parties about what transpired in the meeting, BJP sources claimed that the discussion was “positive” and would help reduce the tension between the two allies.
The two parties may have two or three more such meetings, the sources added.
Maharashtra BJP president Raosaheb Danve did not attend the meeting.
“My schedule was pre-decided. I was busy with organisational work,” Danve told reporters later.
The BJP sources said Shah discussed the political situation in the state, especially after the two Lok Sabha bypolls in which the BJP retained Palghar and lost Bhandara-Gondiya to NCP.
“Preparations for the 2019 polls and how to ensure that programmes and policies of the state and central government reach the common man were the issues which were discussed,” a party insider told PTI.
READ | Lata Mangeshkar misses meeting with Amit Shah
After facing defeat in the Palghar bypoll at the hands of the BJP, the Shiv Sena had labelled its ally as its “biggest political enemy”. Sena lost the 28 May bypoll after a bitter campaign. It had fielded the son of BJP MP Chintaman Wanaga whose death had necessitated the bypoll.
The party has particularly been upset with Prime Minister Narendra Modi and has repeatedly attacked him.
The two parties had been allies for over two and a half decades before they parted ways ahead of the 2014 Maharashtra Assembly polls, only to forge a post-poll alliance to form government under Fadnavis.
Meanwhile, Mumbai Congress chief Sanjay Nirupam claimed that the BJP violated the model code of conduct in force for the coming Legislative Council polls by holding a political meeting at a government guest house.
The Election Commission should take necessary action, he demanded.
As part of ‘Sampark for Samarthan’, Shah has so far met former Indian Army chief Dalbir Singh Suhag, scholar and former Lok Sabha Secretary General Subhash Kashyap and former Team Indian skipper and legendary all-rounder Kapil Dev, retired Chief Justice of India R.C. Lahoti, and yoga guru Baba Ramdev.
(With agency inputs)