Strains in relations between the BJP and Shiv Sena, alliance partners in Maharashtra, came to the fore at a public meeting addressed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi here on Saturday, with Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray’s speech interrupted for a brief period as BJP supporters shouted “Modi, Modi”.
The event — laying the foundation stone of the Chhatrapati Shivaji memorial here — was the first the PM and the Sena chief shared the stage in more than two years. They spent nearly two hours on the dais but there was no visible warmth between the two.
While the Sena is the BJP’s oldest and biggest ally, Modi and Uddhav have shared an uneasy relationship ever since the parties parted ways to contest the Maharashtra Assembly elections separately in 2014. Even as they forged a post-poll alliance, there has been no bonhomie between the two leaders.
Uddhav has fired salvos at the PM off and on, the most recent being on the demonetisation issue. Modi’s body language at the public meeting suggested that Uddhav’s barbs have not left him too pleased.
While Uddhav welcomed Modi as he arrived on the dais, the two did not talk. Modi did not refer to the Sena, or its leader, in his speech. The PM called the Devendra Fadnavis government in Maharashtra a “development-centric government” but did not refer to the Sena’s role in it.
Not criticising the government from the stage, Uddhav urged the PM to “allow the state to maintain the forts built by Shivaji.” Modi, who spoke last, did not acknowledge his request.
The unease was seen even among the cadres. Cadres from both parties began a game of one-upmanship, trying to outshout the other. While BJP workers shouted “Modi, Modi”, the Sainiks shouted back “Balasaheb, Balasaheb”.