Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray’s comment at an event got him laughs but also set speculation on fire, with many state politicians wondering if he was dropping a big hint.
As he began his speech at a programme in Aurangabad, Uddhav Thackeray referred to Union Minister and senior BJP leader Raosaheb Danve as “my former friend – and if we come together again, then future friend”.
The Chief Minister, who is also the Shiv Sena chief, clarified later in his speech that he was only joking as he had met his old friend Raosaheb Danve after a long time.
Mr Thackeray went on to make more loaded remarks. “I like the railways for one reason. You cannot leave the tracks and change direction. Yes, but if there is a diversion you can come to our station. But the engine does not leave the tracks,” he said.
Raosaheb Danve is the Minister of State for Railways and comes from the Marathwada region of Maharashtra.
The BJP, which apparently initiated efforts to patch up with its former ally after their bitter break-up in 2019 over power sharing in Maharashtra, read more into the statement than the Shiv Sena may have wanted. In June, the Chief Minister’s one-on-one meeting with Prime Minister Narendra Modi had ignited talk of a realignment in Maharashtra.
Former Chief Minister and Leader of Opposition Devendra Fadnavis did nothing to silence the reunion buzz. “In politics, anything can happen any time. Uddhavji has spoken our ‘Mann Ki Baat’. It feels good to hear this,” the BJP leader said, borrowing the title of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s monthly radio show.
Congress leader Nana Patole chose to downplay his ally’s comments. “The Chief Minister sometimes likes to crack a joke and that is exactly what he did. This government will run its full five year term. There is no problem with the government in Maharashtra,” said Mr Patole, whose recent comments about the Congress fighting elections on its own had caused some friction in Maharashtra’s Sena-NCP-Congress alliance.