Mumbai: Shiv Sena on Tuesday sought to dismiss speculations following the meeting between JD(U) leader and strategist Prashant Kishor and Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray. Sena leader Sanjay Raut said, “He is a leader of one of NDA’s allies and he met Uddhav ji in that regard. See it as a courtesy visit and not a political visit.”

Kishor’s meeting with Thackeray was enough to get the rumour mills going as the Sena has been bickering with its ally, the BJP, for a while now. In fact, last year, it had announced it would go solo in future elections. Reports suggested that Kishor would help strategise poll campaign for the party.

Sena has openly been criticising the BJP in its editorials in party mouthpiece ‘Saamna’.

However, earlier in January, the two allies put up a show of camaraderie when Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis and Shiv Sena president Uddhav Thackeray jointly took part in rituals marking the beginning of construction
of a memorial for Shiv Sena founder Bal Thackeray.

The move was a significant one as the Sena, an ally of the BJP at the Centre and in Maharashtra, has been critical of various policies of the governments. However, sources within the party had said even the state government’s decision to approve funds for the Thackeray memorial would not affect alliance prospects between the two parties.

The Maharashtra Cabinet has approved Rs 100 crore for the construction of the Thackeray memorial, a move seen as an attempt to reach out to the ally ahead of the Lok Sabha polls. On the occasion of the 93rd birth anniversary of Bal Thackeray, Fadnavis and Thackeray jointly conducted the ‘Ganesh pujan’ (offering prayers to Lord Ganesh) and ‘vastu pujan’ at the memorial site, located at Shivaji Park at Dadar in central Mumbai.

Soon after Shiv Sena Chief Uddhav Thackeray attacked Narendra Modi-led Centre over Ram Mandir issue, BJP General Secretary Ram Madhav had defended the government by saying, “We’ve repeatedly shown our commitment to the construction of the temple in Ayodhya. The Government is doing everything possible to make sure legal process moves quickly.”

Thackeray had attacked the ruling party and asked how the Ram temple could be built when its allies Nitish Kumar of JD(U) and Ram Vilas Paswan of LJP were opposing it.