Having roundly criticised the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the Prime Minister over the last few months, Shiv Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray termed Narendra Modi an “elder brother”, signalling a thaw in the frosty ties between the two saffron allies.
Thackeray not only attended a meeting of NDA partners last night, but also had separate talks with BJP president Amit Shah during which the two leaders discussed a host of issues, and agreed to meet more often for better coordination, a senior BJP leader, who was present during the confabulations, said.
“Thackeray appreciated both Modi and NDA government at the centre for its development agenda and said Prime Minister is like our elder brother,” the BJP leader said quoting the Shiv Sena boss.
Recalling the long association between the two parties, Thackeray told Shah that as a senior partner it had greater responsibility towards ensuring improved coordination between them.
Uddhav also cracked a joke during his address to the NDA conclave, drawing a hearty laugh from Modi, sources in the BJP said, underlining the importance of symbolism of body language during such gatherings.
With presidential election round the corner, the BJP is hopeful of securing the support of the Sena’s contingent of 18 MPs and 63 MLAs after the Shah-Thackeray meeting. The BJP’s oldest pro-Hindutva ally was seen playing the hard ball over the issue so far.
Sena had embarassed BJP in the 2012 Presidential poll by backing the UPA candidate Pranab Mukherjee, while the saffron party supported P A Sangma for the post.
Thackeray also praised the Yogi Adityanath government in Uttar Pradesh for farm loan waiver but insisted that the BJP dispensation in Maharashtra follow suit given the agrarian tragedy and hardship in the state, sources said.
From the issue of inflation to demonetisation and cross border terrorism, Shiv Sena has criticised the BJP and Modi on a host of issues. Its mouthpiece ‘Saamana’ routinely publishes editorials against the saffron ally. Its leaders had even joined a TMC-led march to Rashtrapati Bhavan against demonetisation.