After tough talk, Sena plays coy with BJP

Mumbai,February 14

Shiv Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray who declared recently that his party would contest the next Lok Sabha and assembly elections on its own has allowed some of his lieutenants to start back-channel talks with estranged ally, the BJP.
Sources in the BJP point out that the saffron alliance in Maharashtra may still be saved due to the self-interest of both parties. “Should the Congress and the NCP contest the next elections as part of an alliance both the Shiv Sena and the BJP will be defeated if we don’t unite,” a BJP leader admitted here.
On the other hand, the Shiv Sena is also being wooed to be part of an anti-BJP alliance being put together by NCP chieftain Sharad Pawar. Under this plan, while the Congress, NCP and a few regional parties will be part of an alliance, they would have an informal arrangement with the Shiv Sena in order to split the BJP’s votes.
BJP leaders are concerned that such an arrangement coming in the midst of one of the worst agrarian crises to hit rural Maharashtra would severely dent its numbers in both the Lok Sabha and the Maharashtra assembly.
A section of the BJP here feels that the party should at least pamper the ego of Uddhav Thackeray even if it meant Prime Minister Narendra Modi and party president Amit Shah visiting Matoshree. Both had earlier refused to do so on the grounds that Uddhav did not enjoy the stature of his father Bal Thackeray.
During the first NDA government, BJP bigwigs often found their way to confabulate with the senior Thackeray and pose for photo-ops.