Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Shiv Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray shared the stage for the first time in over two years for laying the foundation stone of the Chhatrapati Shivaji memorial Saturday. But while the duo spent nearly two hours on the dais, there appeared to be no visible warmth between the allies. While the Shiv Sena is BJP’s oldest and biggest ally, Modi and Uddhav have shared an uneasy relationship ever since the two parties parted ways to contest the Maharashtra Assembly polls separately in 2014.
Even as the two parties eventually forged a post-poll alliance, there has been no bonhomie between the two leaders.
With Uddhav firing sharp barbs at the Prime Minister recently over demonetisation and even agreeing to his party MPs participating in the Mamata Banerjee-led march to Rashtrapati Bhavan against the move, the relations between them appear to be troubled.
Modi’s body language at the public meeting suggested that Uddhav’s barbs had displeased him. At the start of the function, Uddhav, along with other dignitaries, welcomed Modi as he arrived on the dais. But they did not talk. Modi did not even refer to the Shiv Sena leader or his party once in his entire speech. While Modi had invoked Shiv Sena founder (late) Bal Thackeray during his election rallies in Mumbai in 2014, he omitted his mention this time around. Significantly, Modi’s visit kicked off BJP’s campaign for the Mumbai municipality polls. While the Prime Minister labelled the Devendra Fadnavis government as a “development centric government”, he didn’t refer to Shiv Sena’s role at all.
On his part, Uddhav avoided criticising the government from the stage. “I’m here to pay homage to Shivraya (Chhatrapati Shivaji),” he declared, and went on to “thank the Centre and the state for expediting the memorial’s work.” He even urged “the Prime Minister to allow the state to maintain the forts built by Shivaji” and sought expediting the Mumbai Coastal road project. But Modi, who was the last to speak, did not acknowledge the request. Incidentally, Fadnavis, too, omitted
Shiv Sena’s mention in his address, while raising a slogan “We are transforming Mumbai for the common man.”