With the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the Shiv Sena taking tentative steps towards a reunion after a bitter parting prior to the Maharashtra Assembly election, the former is ensuring that it calls the shots at every turn and keeps the Sena on tenterhooks.
While the Sena MPs have been invited for tea with Prime Minister Narendra Modi in New Delhi on Sunday, no separate invitation has been extended to party chief Uddhav Thackeray. Sena leader and Union Minister Anant Geete confirmed that Mr. Thackeray would not attend the tea.
“The invitation was extended only to MPs who are part of the National Democratic Alliance. So there is no question of Uddhavji attending and nothing should be read into it,” Mr. Geete said.
Mr. Modi will visit Mumbai on Saturday, but has only one engagement. No meeting with the Sena has been scheduled.
The two parties are expected to hold formal talks next week, but the BJP’s strategy seems to be to wear the Sena down, so it agrees to come on board without demands. “We are keen on an alliance with the Sena, but it should not set any conditions,” senior BJP leader Vinod Tawde said.
The Sena had initially hoped for the redeployment of the 1995 formula reached between the two parties to form the government, which meant that as a junior partner, it would get an almost equal share of Cabinet berths and the key portfolios such as Home, Finance and Irrigation. Now, the best it is hoping for is 14 berths for itself and 28 for the BJP. But even that may not be forthcoming.
When the Sena flew two key leaders to Delhi earlier this week to call on the BJP leaders, they did not get to meet the brass. Instead, they were granted an audience with Union Minister of State for Petroleum and Natural Gas Dharmendra Pradhan and Chandrakant Patil, MLC. The significance of it has not been lost on the Sena. “We should not have crumbled. It has hurt our image. Now it looks like we are willing to settle for anything,” a senior party leader said.