Mumbai: Seen standing shoulder to shoulder in their moment of grief as they performed the last rites of Shiv Sena supremo Bal Thackeray two months ago, estranged cousins Uddhav and Raj Thackeray had so far steered clear of the question - will they bury the hatchet? Uddhav, newly elected president of the Shiv Sena, sought to answer that when he told party mouthpiece Saamna that the Marathi vote shouldn't be split. On joining hands with Raj, he said, "This is a question that the two of us (Raj and I) have to sit together and discuss. The two us have to decide the answer together."
Ally BJP, that has been advocating a reconciliation, welcomed the lead the Sena chief had taken. "Right now, the BJP and the Shiv Sena already have an alliance. If the MNS joins this union, we are sure to win in a big way in the upcoming Lok Sabha elections," said Gopinath Munde.
While the average Marathi voter of the Shiv Sena and the MNS would want a sort of fairytale coming together of the estranged cousins, political observers say that a pre-poll alliance with a four-way seat-sharing is impractical and therefore improbable.
Even so, many leaders within the Sena believe that the coming together of the two will be the gamechanger in the 2014 General Elections, the grand alliance posing a formidable challenge to the NCP-Congress alliance. Sources in the MNS, however, say that in post-Bal Thackeray era, the charismatic Raj hopes to emerge as the natural leader, with the Shiv Sena cadre, especially the younger generation, jumping ship in his favour.