Taking a step backwards, the Shiv Sena finally invited BJP chief Amit Shah to the Thackeray family residence of Matoshree in Bandra East. Earlier, political circles were thrown into a tizzy after Shah's schedule for his maiden visit to Mumbai after being appointed as the BJP national president did not include a customary visit to Matoshree.
This was a break from convention where senior BJP leaders called on late Sena chief Bal Thackeray when they visited Mumbai and was seen as snub to the BJP's oldest ally and had acquired significance in the backdrop of an intense power struggle between the Shiv Sena and the BJP before the state assembly polls. The BJP is trying to force the Sena on the backfoot after the death of Sena supremo Bal Thackeray in 2012 and the rise of Narendra Modi on the national stage.
The six-party 'Mahayuti' sweeping the Lok Sabha polls with 42 of Maharashtra's 48 seats due to the Narendra Modi factor has led the BJP shedding its underdog status to edge out the Shiv Sena and acquire the aura of the dominant partner. The BJP is seeking a hike in the number of seats allocated to it in the coming assembly polls and is also eyeing the chief minister's post. That the Sena's ties with the new dispensation in the BJP have been seen as frosty have also not helped matters.
While BJP leaders had said Shah would meet Uddhav if invited, Sena sources said Uddhav had done the honors on Thursday.
"The doors of Matoshree are open for everybody," said a Sena source. Before visiting Matoshree late on Thursday, Shah also paid his respects to Thackeray Sr at his memorial garden at Shivaji Park in Dadar.
Meanwhile, Sena president Uddhav Thackeray who has already unveiled his party's vision document for the state sought to project himself as a visionary leader and announced his plans to give out tablet PCs with pre-loaded audio-visual learning aids in micro SD cards for students from Standard VIII to X in civic and zilla parishad schools once they came to power. Schools and ashramshalas in rural areas will get television sets with a kit consisting of these aids to be shown to children and also provide academic support to teachers.
"This revolutionary step will be taken once our government comes to power... Some political parties announce freebies like TVs, refrigerators and ACs for voters but we will give you the strength to purchase it... through education," Uddhav said, adding that these gadgets will also be loaded with books on the independence movement and on icons who led the Indian renaissance.
"I will take education to those boys and girls who have been unable to educate themselves due to adverse conditions," he added. Solar chargers will also be given to students in rural areas where power cuts are rampant. "I will ensure that this is done," said Uddhav, who is projected by his party men as the saffron combine's chief ministerial candidate, while stressing on the "I." He added if elected, their government would cut down on extra vagrant spending of public money. In 2009, the Sena contested 169 seats and the BJP fought from 119, winning 45 (including an independent) and 46 respectively.
This time around, the two parties will also have to accommodate allies like Ramdas Athavale's RPI (A), farmer leader and MP Raju Shetti's Swabhimaani Paksha, Mahadeo Jankar's Rashtriya Samaj Paksha (RSP) and MLC Vinayak Mete's Shivasangram, which may complicate things.