This Article is From Sep 18, 2012

Sena, Raj Thackeray's close ties find expression in local election

Sena, Raj Thackeray's close ties find expression in local election
Mumbai: The Shiv Sena and MNS are expected to form an alliance to contest the municipal corporation polls in Nanded with the blessings of none other than Bal Thackeray, a move that is likely to put the already weakened BJP on the back foot in its dealings with the Shiv Sena.

Back here in the city, the first impact of the new Nanded equation will be on the working of the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC), where the ruling alliance of Shiv Sena-BJP has already seen some turmoil because of the tough stand the BJP has been adopting of late on certain issues.

If the MNS joins hands with the Shiv Sena, BJP insiders say the party will have to let the Shiv Sena have its way or risk being sidelined, maybe even thrown out of the alliance.

As the Shiv Sena-BJP alliance is in existence at the state and national level as well, the BJP will have to put its own troubled house in order fast and concentrate more on staying relevant in the fast-changing political scenario.

Loyalties are divided in the BJP between party chief Nitin Gadkari and senior leader Gopinath Munde, and the two camps have been at each other for long now.

It may be that the Shiv Sena needs a more internally united party than the BJP as part of the alliance that will go to the polls in Nanded, but leaders from both the Shiv Sena and the MNS say the thawing of relations between MNS chief Raj Thackeray and Uddhav Thackeray, who is executive president of the Shiv Sena, are the result of Bal Thackeray taking the initiative to bring the cousins together.

Giving full credit to the Shiv Sena president for paving the way for the cousins to come to a meeting point where even a political tie-up can be thought of now, Shiv Sena and MNS leaders said it all began with Bal Thackeray's call to nephew Raj when son Uddhav was admitted to Lilavati Hospital with chest pain.

"It was the senior Thackeray's call to Raj that set the ball rolling and ended the bitterness between the cousins," a senior Shiv Sena leader said, requesting anonymity.

"Since then both Uddhav and Raj have shunned any verbal duel, which was quite bitter in the past. Had it not been for Balasaheb, the cousins would never have mended their ways. It's a win-win situation for both the parties as now we can plan for the 2014 general elections."

Though Raj has always said that the illness of Uddhav and his visits to Matoshree and Lilavati Hospital should not be viewed politically, the tone and tenor of the Thackerays' statements and the coverage given to the MNS in the Shiv Sena mouthpiece Saamna certainly speak louder than words about things to come, said second-rung leaders of both parties.

While no prominent leader from the Shiv Sena was willing to confirm the party was forming an alliance with the MNS, party sampark pramukh Suhas Samant first spelt out the plan. Later, Samant remained incommunicado and no more details could be had from him.

Sources from the Shiv Sena said the local party unit in Nanded had been authorised to hold talks with the MNS district unit to hammer out the alliance for the civic polls scheduled in October.

Uddhav said there was no proposal for such an alliance, but sources said that according to the plan chalked out, the proposal would be forwarded to him only after finalising the seat-sharing between the Shiv Sena, the BJP, the RPI and the MNS.

In Nanded, the hometown of former chief minister Ashok Chavan, the saffron alliance will take on the ruling Congress and NCP, which are fighting the election separately.

If the Shiv Sena, the BJP, the RPI and the MNS come together, it will be tough for Chavan to retain hold on the civic body, said a senior leader from the Congress.

Sources also say that the Shiv Sena local unit has been asked to forge the proposed alliance with mutual understanding and going by the current atmosphere of camaraderie between Uddhav and Raj, there will be no problem in getting the stamp of approval from the top leadership of both parties.

Certain leaders in the BJP have always been supportive of such an alliance, but the RPI has certain reservations and may not like to align with the MNS. Party chief Ramdas Athavale has offered a word of caution on the proposal.

Prakash Marawar, Nanded district chief of the Shiv Sena, said he had received the MNS proposal and it had been forwarded to Uddhav Thackeray.

BJP senior leader Gopinath Munde, who has spoken in favour of joining hands with the MNS, avoided any comment while speaking to media persons at the party headquarters.

"I will not comment now, as we want to concentrate on the proposed Bharat bandh on September 20 called by the party," he said.

Party sources say the leader deliberately avoided saying anything as the talks for the Nanded civic elections were still at the discussion stage.