COMING IN the backdrop of prevailing tension between the two allies ahead of the Lok Sabha polls, Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis and Shiv Sena president Uddhav Thackeray on Wednesday jointly performed ‘vaastu pujan’ at the memorial site of Bal Thackeray at Shivaji Park in Mumbai.
Fadnavis paid floral tribute to Bal Thackeray on his 93rd birth anniversary at the mayor’s bungalow in Shivaji Park, which is set to be converted into a memorial. This was followed by Fadnavis and Uddhav participating in the puja for the memorial.
The state Cabinet had on Tuesday approved Rs 100 crore for the construction of the memorial, which is expected to begin next month. On Wednesday, 11,500 sq m of land, where the mayor’s bungalow stands at present, was transferred to the Balasaheb Thackeray Rashtriya Smarak Nyas. Later, Uddhav and Fadnavis held a brief meeting. However, there were no political discussions, said sources.
“The grand memorial is a tribute to Bal Thackeray, who has always been our inspiration,” the CM said at the event. “The trust will live up to the expectations of the people and make a grand memorial,” said Uddhav. Fadnavis also tweeted pictures of him and Uddhav participating in rituals marking the start of construction of the memorial.
Several BJP and Sena leaders, Mumbai Mayor Vishwanath Mahadeshwar, Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation chief Ajoy Mehta and members of Balasaheb Thackeray Rashtriya Smarak Nyas, including BJP MP Poonam Mahajan, were present at the event.
Until now, the Sena had been targeting the BJP, its ally at the Centre and in Maharashtra, over issues such as the Rafale aircraft deal, Ram temple, farm crisis, rising fuel prices, etc. The two parties have also spoken of going it alone in the Lok Sabha elections.
A source in the BJP said, “At the moment, both sides are open to pre-poll alliance for Lok Sabha and Assembly polls… The Shiv Sena wants the commitment from BJP for both Lok Sabha and Assembly elections.”
A senior Sena minister said the party wants the BJP to hold Lok Sabha and Assembly elections simultaneously. “We are ready for pre-poll alliance based on sharing the number of seats equally.”
A source said that in the Lok Sabha polls, BJP is mulling contesting 24 seats and giving Shiv Sena 22 and other allies two seats. “Whereas, for the 288 Assembly seats, BJP and Sena are discussing the formula of BJP contesting 55 per cent of the seats and Shiv Sena 45 per cent. The remaining seats will go to smaller allies,” said a leader.
Another formula being considered is both sides contesting 144 seats each. To accommodate smaller allies, both parties would give up equal number of seats. “If 12 seats are given to smaller parties, Sena and BJP should give up six seats each from their quota of 144 seats,” said a source.
A leader said that it is also being explored that if voted to power in state, the chief minister’s post will be held by BJP and Sena for two-and-half years each. “The BJP has also promised Sena at least two plum portfolios at the Centre if NDA is voted to power,” said a source.