For the first time since his father, Shiv Sena supremo Bal Thackeray, passed away in November last year, Sena President Uddhav Thackeray dropped hints at a possible rapprochement with his estranged cousin, Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS)chief Raj Thackeray, commenting he would welcome an alliance with the MNS.

In the second part of an interview in his party mouthpiece Saamana, Mr. Thackeray said that the issue (of a possible reconciliation) would have to be jointly thought out by them.

“The question has to be asked when both of us are sitting face-to-face,” Mr. Thackeray said, remarking: “One cannot clap with a single hand.”

The Sena president went so far as to say that “if anyone wholeheartedly wanted to join the Sena” then he would certainly welcome them, while commenting that the ruling Congress-NCP alliance directly benefited from the division of the Marathi vote caused by the Sena-MNS rift.

While this has sparked off a fresh bout of speculations on a possible Sena-MNS merger, sceptical observers attribute his overtures to a sense of desperation felt in struggling to keep the Sena in one piece.

“We have to first analyse why we drifted away in the first place? If we are to re-unite, then for what purpose and who is our main political opponent? How do we defeat our opponents and what direction should be taken for achieving this?” Mr. Thackeray said.

However, the MNS chief has desisted from commenting on Mr. Thackeray’s statements, prompting analysts to regard a reunion, or even a pre-poll alliance, between the cousins in view of the 2014 Assembly elections a pipe-dream.

Raj Thackeray had split the Sena in 2006 to launch MNS after Bal Thackeray named Uddhav as his successor.

While the cousins have had a bitter estrangement since then, grief brought them together for a while following a number of visits by Raj Thackeray to his ailing uncle at the Thackeray’s residence ‘Matoshree.’

Raj Thackeray had also called upon Uddhav Thackeray in the hospital when the latter underwent an angioplasty, driving him back home after the operation.

The Sena patriarch’s death in November last year coupled with Uddhav Thackeray’s deteriorating health has helped the MNS hold greater sway over the hearts and minds of the Marathi Manoos.

Meanwhile, the Bharatiya Janata Party has put its foot into the issue of a reunion with senior BJP leader Gopinath Munde welcoming intimations of a reunion between the estranged cousins, commenting that a Shiv Sena–MNS alliance augured well for the Marathi-speaking public in the State.