New Delhi, Feb. 1: The BJP seems open to the idea of projecting Bal Thackeray’s son and heir Uddhav as the chief ministerial candidate in the Maharashtra Assembly elections due in 2004.
Uddhav, who was anointed the Shiv Sena’s working president by his father earlier in the week, was described by Maharashtra BJP sources as the “ideal CM candidate”.
Apart from being a new face, Uddhav was “more likely to appreciate the compulsions and responsibilities of governance, unlike his father who seemed to be in government and Opposition at the same time”, BJP sources said.
Former Sena chief ministers Manohar Joshi and later Narayan Rane were appointed by Thackeray for the five years the alliance ruled Maharashtra and gave the impression of being little more than his proxies.
Uddhav’s equation with Thackeray was bound to be different and this “difference would give him the confidence to think and govern independently”, they added.
BJP sources said they were determined to hold on to the alliance with the Sena because of its well-entrenched base in the coastal region and in and around Mumbai.
“In the Sena strongholds, it is much stronger than the BJP is on its turf,” admitted the sources.
In elections that the alliance fought jointly, the BJP was content to ride piggyback on the Sena and agreed to contest fewer seats and even have a Sena man as the chief minister when the government was formed in 1995.
Although a section of the Maharashtra BJP wanted to have the former deputy chief minister and now party vice-president Gopinath Munde as the chief minister, it was more or less ruled out in favour of one from the Sena.
The central command also felt that with the Congress and the Nationalist Congress Party showing signs of forging an alliance — the appointment of Sushil Shinde as the chief minister was seen by the BJP as a pointer because Shinde is NCP chief Sharad Pawar’s protégé — the BJP and the Sena should stick together to put up a fight.
The BJP-Sena alliance hit a rough patch after Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi addressed a public meeting in Mumbai’s Shivaji Park — Thackeray’s political turf — and was described as the “Hindu hriday ka samrat” (the monarch of Hindu hearts). This honorific was used in Maharashtra exclusively for Thackeray and the reference to Modi reportedly annoyed him.
The BJP has, therefore, decided to desist from labelling Modi the same way as Thackeray in Maharashtra and also restrict his presence in future campaigns to big cities like Nagpur and Ahmednagar