Mumbai: Shiv Sena president Uddhav Thackeray is willing to mend fences with cousin Raj Thackeray, who set up the Maharashtra NavNirman Sena (MNS) in 2006 after breaking with the party.
Political analysts are skeptical about any reconciliation before the 2014 Lok Sabha and assembly polls, as neither would be willing to take a subordinate role to the other.
Uddhav Thackeray, son of the late Shiv Sena founder Bal Thackeray, made the statement in his first interview to party newspaper Saamna after taking over the Sena’s helm last week. The senior Thackeray died in November.
“Why you are asking this question to me? One needs two hands to clap. Unless we are brought on the same platform and asked the question simultaneously, such a question is meaningless,” Uddhav Thackeray said. “I am ready to consider any genuine proposal for reconciliation and we must think what we achieved by dividing the Marathi vote.”
There were some signals of ties easing last year, with Raj Thackeray visiting his cousin and uncle when both were unwell. He seemed to keep his distance, however, at his uncle’s funeral.
In the 2009 elections, MNS cut into the vote share of the Shiv Sena-Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) alliance, thus helping the Congress-led coalition.
MNS general secretary and spokesman Shirish Parkar said, “On such a sensitive issue, only Raj will speak, if he wants to speak.”
The BJP welcomed the statement and said the cousins should reunite.
“Our leaders Nitin Gadkari and Gopinath Munde have always stressed the need for the two cousins to bury the hatchet and come together in the larger interest of Maharashtra,” said BJP’s Vinod Tavade, leader of the opposition in the state legislative council. “Hence we welcome Uddhav’ s statement and we are confident Raj will react positively.”
Girish Kuber, editor of Marathi daily Loksatta, said, “I don’t think there is any question of a rapprochement but what Uddhav’s interview has indicated is that he has realised how weak his position is.”
If it’s clear in the 2014 Lok Sabha and assembly polls which of the parties has most support, the terms of any rapprochement will be clear, he said.
Sandeep Pradhan, political editor of Marathi daily Maharashtra Times said, “Sena is already in alliance with BJP and if Raj has to join the alliance, he will be the third partner, so unless he is in a position to become a second partner in such alliance, I don’t think he will be interested in joining a so-called Mahayuti (grand alliance).”