Uddhav Thackeray hints at rapprochement with Raj

Mumbai, Jan 30 (IANS) Shiv Sena president Uddhav Thackeray Wednesday hinted that he was open to the possibility of his party joining hands with cousin Raj Thackeray's Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS).

The clear hint came in an interview to the party mouthpiece Saamna, Thackeray's first since his father Balasaheb Thackeray's death Nov 17 last year and after he took over the reins of the party Jan 17.

Responding to a question on whether the cousins could come together, Thackeray said: "You cannot clap with one hand. Tell me, can you?"

Pushing further, Saamna's executive editor and party MP Sanjay Raut asked whether this implied the two parties could join hands?

"Why do you ask this question only to me? I am ready to reply. But for that you have to make us sit together, next to each other. Then you can ask the question to both of us. It depends on both sides," Thackeray said, hinting at the possibility of burying the hatchet with Raj.

"More important than coming together, we have to first analyse why we drifted away... If we reunite, then for what purpose? Who is your main political opponent? Who do you want to destroy politically? And what direction should be taken for achieving this?" Thackeray told Raut.

When asked to clarify his views, Thackeray said the late Bal Thackeray had founded the Shiv Sena over four decades ago to fight for the rights of the Marathis and ensure justice for the sons of the soil.

"Subsequently, when he realised that Islamic groups were posing a threat to the country in the form of a green demon, he said that only the Marathis would not be able to tackle the challenge. So he adopted the policy that in Maharashtra he would fight for Marathis. For the entire country he would be a Hindu," Thackeray said.

He lamented that Marathis were divided on the basis of religion and caste and Bal Thackeray united them under a saffron Hindu banner. But during elections the situation was back to square one.

Thackeray emphasised that the Shiv Sena "was the party of the Marathis" and pointed out that his father had stepped forward to forge an alliance with the Bharatiya Janata Party over two decades ago to ensure that the Hindu vote did not split.

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