Bittersweet bonds with BJP and Bollywood

FP

Who is this person with you?" Bal Thackeray asked L K Advani during one of his visits to Matoshree. "This is Nitin, Nitin Gadkari," the BJP leader replied, adding he had thought the Sena chief knew him. "No, I don't," Thackeray replied.

Though he was courteous enough to Advani, he had neither forgiven nor forgotten. In 2000, he had recommended the name of Saamna executive editor Sanjay Raut to Advani, when Advani was deputy prime minister, for the Padmashri award. The 2001 award list kept Raut out.

Notwithstanding ups and downs, Thackeray was the BJP's oldest ally. Since joining hands in 1989, the Shiv Sena and the BJP have often quarreled but always been together. When the Sena was rocked by Raj Thackeray's revolt, the BJP tried to take advantage by claiming the posts of leaders of opposition in both houses, and also seats from the Sena quota in byelections. The Sena hit back by ditching the BJP in the presidential elections by backing the candidatures of Pratibha Patil and Pranab Mukherjee.

Thackeray would even take potshots at the BJP. When the BJP disowned the Babri Masjid demoloition, Thackeray was quick to own up to it.

How will Thackeray's death affect the alliance? If his son Uddhav Thackeray ever faces a challenge in keeping the party intact, he will note that the BJP is in no position to dictate terms. It is a divided house in Maharashtra, not to speak of Gadkari's problems. He and Gopinath Munde are at loggerheads. If either hobnobs with NCP leader Sharad Pawar or Raj Thackeray, Uddhav has a cosy relationship with Congress CM Prithviraj Chavan.

The BJP needs a united NDA to fight the Lok Sabha polls. In big parties, it is often state leaders who want to experiment with fresh alliances, while national leaders are prepared to make concessions in the states. Now, when a Maharashtra leader heads the BJP, there is little scope for such an adventure.

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