Amit Shah Meets Sena Chief, Asks Uneasy Questions

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Mumbai: The BJP supremo Amit Shah met BJP boss Amit Shah started work on his mission to reach out to NDA allies, starting from Uddhav Thackeray’s Shiv Sena in Mumbai this evening to mollify its oldest and most difficult ally that calls his party its “biggest political enemy”. The Shiv Sena, which sees the BJP’s efforts to consolidate its foothold in Mumbai and beyond as a threat, has promised a divorce ahead of next year’s Lok Sabha elections.

Mr Shah walked into Uddhav Thackeray’s residence in north-west Mumbai’s Bandra to attempt to talk the Shiv Sena leadership out of carrying out this threat. It is not clear if Mr Shah has come prepared to make concessions to Shiv Sena.

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Of the many questions and complaints that he is expected to flag at the meeting, Shiv Sena sources told NDTV, Mr Thackeray would ask Amit Shah why the BJP was so keen to fight elections with the Shiv Sena on his side when the party acts like it does not need anyone. Mr Thackeray would also raise the agrarian crisis with Mr Shah.

This is the first meeting at Mr Thackeray’s residence, Matoshree, after Mr Shah’s visit last year when the BJP president had come around to patch-up cracks in the alliance over support for the presidential nominee. The 90-minute meeting hadn’t then stopped the Shiv Sena from taking jabs at the BJP but it did eventually, even if reluctantly, support the NDA’s presidential nominee Ram Nath Kovind.

Relations between the two parties hit rock bottom in recent times. Last month’s by-elections, where the two allies fought against each other and almost lost both seats, is seen as a trailer of this separation.

Well before Mr Shah stepped into Matoshree, Mr Thackeray’s party has signalled that Mr Shah won’t have an easy job at hand. “Ties between the people and the BJP have snapped…for the BJP, relationships are business calculations,” an editorial in the Sena mouthpiece Saamana proclaimed today.

The BJP hasn’t responded to the Shiv Sena’s jibes. But their arch rival, the Congress, which has been closely tracking the Shiv Sena going into sulking mode, predicted the Shiv Sena was acting pricey to negotiate a better deal for itself.

“The meeting between the two leaders is aimed at cutting a political deal, nothing else. The Shiv Sena is not going to snap ties with the BJP,” Maharashtra Congress chief and former chief minister Ashok Chavan prophesied.

But the Shiv Sena isn’t the only NDA ally to be visited by Mr Shah to mend fences. Mr Shah will be flying to Chandigarh for a quick meeting with Akali Dal chief Parkash Singh Badal and son Sukhbir. Mr Badal, however, prepped this meeting with a message to other allies to stand together.

“It is a war like situation…the general elections are due next year and we need to strengthen the NDA and should resolve our differences to emerge victorious in the next general elections,” Mr Badal told.