Devendra Fadnavis was present at an event to mark the death anniversary of Shiv Sena founder Bal Thackeray at Shivaji Park in Mumbai this afternoon. The presence of the BJP leader and former Chief Minister, who arrived after Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray and his son, Aaditya Thackeray, left, comes amid a breakdown in relations between the parties after last month's elections.
Mr Fadnavis, who left almost immediately after offering his respects, was met by Sena supporters shouting slogans in Marathi - "sarkar kunauchi. shiv sena chi (whose government? Shiv Sena's)"
He had earlier tweeted in tribute of the Sena patriarch, writing "salutations to our inspirational source Balasaheb Thackeray on his death anniversary" in Marathi. BJP leaders Vinod Tawde and Pankaja Munde were also present, as were leaders from other parties, including the Congress and the NCP.
#WATCH Maharashtra: Slogan of "Sarkar kunauchi? Shiv Sena chi" (Whose government? Shiv Sena's) raised by Shiv Sena workers, when BJP leader Devendra Fadnavis was leaving after paying tributes to Balasaheb Thackeray on his death anniversary today, in Mumbai. pic.twitter.com/AbsA5Gm1f5— ANI (@ANI) November 17, 2019
Sena-BJP relations have taken a nosedive in the past weeks, with Sanjay Raut repeatedly targeting the latter. A scathing editorial in Sena mouthpiece Saamana on Friday accused its former ally of "horse-trading under the guise of President's Rule".
आमचे प्रेरणास्थान, हिंदूहृदयसम्राट माननीय बाळासाहेब ठाकरे यांना स्मृतिदिनी शत शत प्रणाम ! pic.twitter.com/8DG9Deyydk— Devendra Fadnavis (@Dev_Fadnavis) November 17, 2019
The Sena and the BJP fought the state polls together and emerged with 161 seats in the 288-member house but fell out after a bitter dispute over allocation of portfolios and sharing the Chief Minister's post.
That dispute has triggered a revision of seating arrangements in the Rajya Sabha after the Sena walked out of the Modi government at the centre, with the party now sitting in the opposition benches. The Sena also skipped a meeting of the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) in Delhi today.
Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray has since held talks NCP and the Congress to form an unlikely alliance and stake claim to the government, something the BJP, which had emerged as the single-largest party with 105 seats, declined when asked by Governor Bhagat Singh Koshyari, citing its lack of majority.
The BJP appears to have settled into wait-and-watch mode for now, although last week Amit Shah blamed the Sena for the breakup, declaring it had come up with untenable post-poll demands.
Devendra Fadnavis' comments last week, after he announced his resignation from the Chief Minister's post, have not helped Sena-BJP relations. Mr Fadnavis, who resigned hours before the government formation deadline, hit out at the Sena for targeting Prime Minister Narendra Modi and reminded them that "no one from the BJP ever targeted Bal Thackeray or Uddhav Thackeray".
The BJP's appearance at today's memorial event for Bal Thackeray may be nothing more than a courtesy visit to honour one of Maharashtra politics' most influential figures, but many have seen it as a sign that relations between the decades-old allies may not be as far gone as it appears.
Earlier today NCP chief Sharad Pawar, the veteran politician who single-handedly led the opposition charge in the election and has been widely seen as key to bringing the Sena and the Congress together, also tweeted a tribute.
"Bal Thackeray was a Marathi Manoos who raised the voice for Marathis pride and their self-esteem. He did politics with a social cause. He was a unique orator who got unending affection of his followers. We bow down to him on his death anniversary," Mr Pawar wrote in Marathi.
On Friday, a day after the Sena, the Congress and the NCP met to thrash out basic differences and draft a common agenda, Mr Pawar, 79, was bullish about the alliance successfully forming a government and completing the full five-year term.
The Sena-Congress-NCP has been racing against time since President's Rule was imposed in the state on Tuesday to cobble together that alliance. Mr Pawar and interim Congress President Sonia Gandhi are scheduled to meet in Delhi on Monday to discuss the way forward.
With input from ANI