Shiv Sena and BJP leaders may be working overtime to keep the political arithmetic intact, but there is a visible change in the chemistry as BJP national president Amit Shah’s Mumbai schedule finds no mention of any visit to Matoshree, the residence of Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray. Shah will be on his first visit to Mumbai on September 4 after becoming the BJP chief.
Officially, BJP and Sena have both confirmed that no meeting has been scheduled between Uddhav and Shah in Mumbai this week.
The BJP Monday clarified that Shah’s visit to Mumbai would be confined to organisational matters and Ganpati darshan.
The primary reason for Shah not meeting Uddhav is apparently because of the disputes within the alliance over the seat-sharing formula for the ensuing Assembly elections, which still needs to be resolved. The BJP wants to send out a signal that it will not allow Sena’s “highhandedness” in the state polls.
“Seat-sharing negotiations are still under way. If Shah and Thackeray meeting takes place, it should be conclusive. And by September 4, we are not confident things will get resolved,” said one of the political managers of the BJP.
Officially, both the Shiv Sena and the BJP are exercising caution. A close confidant of Uddhav Thackeray said: “We are not aware of any visit by Amit Shah.”
State BJP chief Devendra Fadnavis told The Indian Express, “Amit Shah will visit Mumbai for the first time after taking charge as all-India BJP president. He will address party workers at Shanmukhananda Hall (Dadar), and also visit some of the popular Ganesh mandals, including famous Lalbaugcha Raja in Lower Parel.”
He said Shah’s decision to confine the visit to just BJP programmes was not political.
Fadnavis, meanwhile, asserted that the seat-sharing negotiations between Sena and BJP were taking place as per schedule and going in the right direction.
“By next week, we hope all the issues will be resolved. And we will be able to at least have the first list of candidates and seats ready,” he said.
The state BJP president also dismissed any thought that Shah’s decision to not meet Thackeray might affect the alliance. “Both parties understand that they have to address their respective party cadre. Moreover,
Shah has not been able to visit Mumbai as he was busy with the campaign in Jammu and Kashmir and Haryana,” he argued.
Notwithstanding the explanation given by the BJP, there is some unrest in the Sena. Though none of the leaders spoken to was willing to make any official comment, a senior Sena MP who did not wish to be named said: “Circumstances and leadership change is bound to bring some deviation from the past. In the past, often central BJP leaders, including former prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee and former deputy prime minister L K Advani, would make it a point to come to Matoshree and greet the late Bal Thackeray.”
The Sena MP, who claimed to have been a witness to many such meetings, said: “Often, there was no agenda or politics. The visits were part of the bonding, which was so natural between top leaders. However, post Thackeray and Atal-Advani era, things are undergoing some changes in the BJP.”
He added: “We have not sought any meeting with Amit Shah. So, there is no question of his reciprocating or dismissing our invitation.”
However, a senior BJP functionary said: “During the Shiv Sena’s annual Dussehra Rally, nobody from the BJP is ever invited. So what is the big deal? Even in the past, there were instances when Advanji came for a party function and left without meeting Thackeray. There are often time constraints too.”