Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) chief Raj Thackeray met cousin and Shiv Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray at the latter's residence in Mumbai on Friday amid speculations that the parties could join hands, if not outright merge, before the upcoming elections to the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) elections.
Theirs was a closed-door meeting, with aides of neither attending the meeting, which has only further fuelled the speculations. With the MNS' stress on the welfare of the "Marathi manoos" and anti-North-Indian stand petering out, and the Shiv Sena being reduced to little more than a mute spectator in an alliance with the BJP both in the state and the Centre, this new political equation could end up helping both parties.
Uddhav Thackeray has been at the helm of the Shiv Sena since 2004, well before his father and party founder Bal Thackeray died in 2012. Raj Thackeray, Bal Thackeray's nephew, had separated from the right-wing outfit and had formed his own party, the MNS, in 2005 with equally right-wing ideologies.
Since then, the Shiv Sena has turned out to be less and less of a political force both at the state and the Centre, despite its divisive views on a gamut of topics. It has come to a situation where it has been entirely snubbed for ministerial posts at the Centre, and has had its request for more minister in the Maharashtra Cabinet denied by Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis.
The MNS, which had also played a lot of divisive politics in an effort to form a loyal Marathi vote bank, has been at its wit's end over losing key bastions in the state.
It was probably to reverse these very losses that the cousins came together. Whether they buried the hatchet is not known yet, but it is more than clear that right-wing politics could be looking at a new front in Maharashtra.