After publicly avoiding each other for close to two years, the estranged Thackeray cousins, Uddhav Thackeray and Raj Thackeray, held an hour-long closed-door meeting on Friday. Raj Thackeray left his house accompanied by MNS leader Bala Nandgaonkar and headed to Matoshree, the Bandra residence of Uddhav Thackeray.
“It was a personal visit. I am not aware of what happened inside, neither was I told by Rajsaheb on what transpired inside,” Nandgaonkar said.
Both sides remained tightlipped about the purpose of the meeting leading to speculation over the reason for the rapprochement. The Thackeray clan has been facing a difficult time on the political as well as personal front.
The Shiv Sena has been having difficulties in its alliance with the BJP with both partners sniping at each other at every opportunity. The Sena has been long considering pulling out of the alliance in view of the BJP’s plan of expanding its base in Maharashtra at the expense of its three-decade old Hindutva ally.
Uddhav Thackeray has appeared to oscillate over the past 18 months between distancing the Sena from its alliance partner and smoothening ties. With a Sena alliance with the Congress-NCP ruled out over ideological issues, the MNS is seen as the natural ally for the Sena, the only hurdle being the differences between the brothers. The upcoming Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation elections have also further added to the strain between the Sena and BJP.
Raj Thackeray’s MNS, meanwhile, faces a crisis of credibility and is fighting to keep itself relevant in Maharashtra’s politics. Joining hands with the Sena could give a lifeline to the nearly comatose party.
On the personal front too, with Uddhav and his estranged brother Jaydev embroiled in litigation over Bal Thackeray’s will, there have been indications that Raj Thackeray was requested to play intermediary.
“We do not know if it was personal or political. But even if it was personal and Raj Thackeray has been asked to reach out to Jaydev it is an indication that the two cousins are keen on helping each other out. We hope this personal meeting turns into a political arrangement as well,” a Shiv Sena leader said.
The alliance between the two parties could help both take on the BJP juggernaut in the state which under its new strategy seems to be keen on limiting the space of regional politics in Indian polity.