MUMBAI: The recent meeting between Maharashtra Chief Minister Eknath Shinde and his deputy Devendra Fadnavis with MNS leader Raj Thackeray is being seen in the context of future polarisation of electoral politics in the state.
In an indication of a possible political realignment ahead of civic polls in Mumbai, Shinde and Fadnavis participated in a Diwali event organised by Raj Thackeray’s Maharashtra Navnirman Sena. With the bonhomie among the three on full display, rumour mills went abuzz about a possible political alliance in the future.
Elections to ten municipal corporations, including Mumbai, are expected to be announced in the next few days. The BJP along with the Eknath Shinde faction of the Shiv Sena is looking to unseat the Uddhav Thackeray-led Shiv Sena from the cash-rich civic body.
Addressing the crowd at Shivaji Park, where the ‘Deepotsav’ will continue till November 8, Thackeray thanked Shinde and Fadnavis for accepting his invite on the occasion of Diwali. The equation between the BJP-Balasahebanchi Shiv Sena combine and MNS came into focus recently after the former withdrew its candidate from the Andheri East by poll on an appeal by Thackeray.
The MNS chief, it is learnt, has kept the doors open for forming an alliance for the upcoming civic body polls in Thane, Mumbai and other cities. Recently he chaired a crucial meeting of party workers from across Maharashtra. According to a senior MNS leader Bala Nandgaonkar, at the meeting Raj Thackeray had exhorted the party workers to harbour a positive mindset. The MNS chief also claimed that his party can emerge as a viable alternative amid the current political situation in Maharashtra.
Earlier, the BJP used to rule out an alliance with the MNS from time to time. However, an implicit understanding between the BJPEknath Shinde camp and the MNS might prove to be a potent force in the upcoming polls.
The last meeting between Fadnavis and the MNS leader took place in July when the latter was recuperating after undergoing hip replacement surgery.
A few days back, Shinde, Fadnavis and Mumbai BJP chief Ashish Shelar had shared the dais with NCP President Sharad Pawar at a dinner held on the eve of the Mumbai Cricket Association (MCA) polls. On that occasion, Shinde had said this might give sleepless nights to some people. Although he did not name anyone, his remark was apparently directed at his predecessor Uddhav Thackeray.
BJP insiders claim that Shinde, Raj Thackeray and Fadnavis share the same ideology and there is nothing wrong if the three come together. “In the future if the MNS joins us (BJP and Shinde camp) in an alliance, then there should be no problem as the foundation of the three parties is the same Hindutva,” said Sahaji Bapu Patil, a Shinde camp MLA.