Mumbai: Shiv Sena president Uddhav Thackeray is likely to indicate his party’s position on an alliance with the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) at the party’s annual Dussehra rally on Thursday.
For the party founded in 1966, the rally at Shivaji Park in Mumbai’s Dadar is a high-profile event. It is also a platform from which the Shiv Sena broadcasts its views on the political situation and provides leads to its cadres who gather there from all over Maharashtra.
A senior Shiv Sena leader and minister in the Maharashtra government said the party is expecting around 500,000 workers to turn up. “It is not a show of strength. The rally gets a huge turnout every year but tomorrow’s show will be inevitably compared with the BJP’s rally in Mumbai some months ago. We want to make it bigger than that," he said, requesting anonymity.
In April, the BJP held its foundation day convention in Mumbai, which attracted over 250,000 workers. At the same convention, BJP leaders including party president Amit Shah and Maharashtra chief minister Devendra Fadnavis sounded keen on an alliance with the Shiv Sena. However, Thackeray has maintained since January that his party would go alone in the next elections.
Of late though, a large number of Shiv Sena’s Lok Sabha MPs have favoured a pre-poll alliance with the BJP for the Lok Sabha elections, and Thackeray may indicate the party line on this aspect, according to the Sena minister quoted above.
However, the BJP and Shiv Sena leaders do not see Thackeray taking a clear position on the alliance at the rally. The Shiv Sena minister said the Dussehra rally was not the “right stage" to take such important decisions.
“There has been some internal discussion on this issue for some time but that process has not reached a conclusion. Also, Uddhav saheb will take that call after the results of elections in five states," the Sena leader said. A senior BJP leader and minister in Maharashtra said the BJP expected the rally to be “just another day of BJP and Modi bashing for Thackeray". “There won’t be anything new by way of future direction. To be fair to Uddhav ji, he does not need to decide on alliance this early and so he need not pull the punches," said this BJP leader requesting anonymity.