The meeting between Sanjay Raut and Devendra Fadnavis has certainly caused a flutter in Maharashtra politics with speculations of the once traditional allies – BJP and Shiv Sena joining hands again. The development has made the NCP and INC palpably uneasy with cracks in the Maha Vikas Aghadi increasingly visible as Sharad Pawar and Balasaheb Thorat rushed to douse the fire within the ruling alliance.
Shiv Sena’s Sanjay Raut met BJP leader and former CM Devendra Fadnavis in an apparent secret meeting at an upscale hotel in Mumbai which is believed to have lasted for two hours. While the pretext of the meeting as claimed by both the Shiv Sena and BJP was for an exclusive interview of Fadnavis for Shiv Sena’s mouthpiece, Saamna, it is clear that the state politics is experiencing yet another churn.
As the news of the meet between Shiv Sena’s Raut and BJP Fadnavis trickled in, NCP supremo and godfather of the three-party alliance, Sharad Pawar rushed to meet Maharashtra CM Uddhav Thackeray on Sunday. Leaders from both the parties, Nawab Malik and Anil Parab sought to downplay the meeting between Pawar and Thackeray with Malik claiming that, “Since it’s a three-party government, Pawar has been meeting the CM on a regular basis.”
State Revenue Minister and Maharashtra Congress President, Balasaheb Thorat also rushed to meet Shiv Sena’s Uddhav Thackeray and attempted to downplay the meeting between Raut and Fadnavis.
“Raut met Fadnavis in his capacity as a scribe,” said Thorat.
The fact that the leaders of both NCP and INC rushed to meet Uddhav signifies that all is not well within the Maha Vikas Aghadi and NCP and INC are on tenterhooks.
While Thorat claims that Raut went to meet Fadnavis in his individual capacity as a scribe, the fact is that every student of Maharashtra politics knows that the Shiv Sena is run by Milind Navrekar and Sanjay Raut. The fact that Raut who has severely criticised the BJP at the first opportunity available met Fadnavis raises the possibility that Maharashtra’s political scenario is set to take another turn into the unknown.
Raut, who is known for his diatribes against the BJP, also claimed that there is no enmity between him and Fadnavis. The Shiv Sena leader also stated that the Chief Minister was aware of his meeting.
“He (Fadnavis) is a former CM. Also, he’s the leader of opposition in Maharashtra & Bihar Polls-in charge of BJP. There can be ideological differences but we are not enemies. CM was aware about our meeting,” said Raut.
It seems that the message that Sena wanted to emanate has hit the spot. The meeting is a case of the Shiv Sena attempting to leverage its previous equation with BJP as the duo used to be traditional allies before Uddhav Thackeray’s lust for power destroyed the alliance.
The party is clearly attempting to send a message to its newest allies: NCP and INC that the Shiv Sena can still go back to BJP and form the government in case of any backstabbing by the NCP and Congress.
It seems that Uddhav has finally realised that Sharad Pawar is loyal to none except himself and the wily old Pawar would certainly be plotting to remove Uddhav at the first opportunity available. Hence, Raut’s meeting with Fadnavis was aimed to warn Pawar that any misadventure will end up costing the NCP dearly and will find itself out of power with Shiv Sena allying with BJP to retain power in the state.
No secret political meeting takes place at an upscale hotel in Mumbai and it was a clever strategy from the Shiv Sena. It seems that the meeting scared the living daylights out of the NCP and INC and brought back memories of how swiftly Nitish Kumar rejoined NDA in 2017, sending shockwaves in the opposition camp. Pawar and Thorat are desperate to avoid a major embarrassment and hence, have rushed to placate Uddhav Thackeray.