Shiv Sena working president Uddhav Thackeray had a hush-hush meeting with Nationalist Congress Party president and Union Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar on Tuesday night at the Pawars's official residence in New Delhi.
However, both parties remained tightlipped about the possible fallout of this meeting. Talking to media-persons on the sidelines of an art exhibition in Mumbai, Thackeray neither denied nor confirmed his meeting with Pawar. "You ask Pawar about it" is all he could say before adding that the picture would be clear in the next ten days.
Meanwhile, Pawar, who was in Sangli, told the media that one should not read too much into this meeting. "I keep meeting politicians from all parties and I don't bring political or ideological differences in personal relationships," he said.
Replying to a question about possible tie-up with Sena, he said, "It is all media speculation but we are open to alliance with anyone except the Bharatiya Janata Party."
Both the BJP and the Congress are viewing developments like this meeting, or Deputy Chief Minister and senior NCP leader Chhagan Bhujbal going for dinner at Sena supremo Bal Thackeray's residence, as pressure tactics of their allies to extract more seat from them for the coming Lok Sabha elections.
Talking to Business Standard, a senior Sena leader who is a close aide of Uddhav Thackeray, said, "We have decided to snap our ties with the BJP and an announcement to this effect will be made before March 1."
However, another Sena leader who is also considered to be part of Thackeray junior's kitchen cabinet, said: "Dialogue with Pawar is on but it is not yet decided whether to part the ways with the BJP or not."
When contacted, a senior BJP leader said, "We are in no hurry and ready to wait for Sena's decision. We will neither plead with them to stay in alliance nor ask them to quit."
But as speculation were rife about a possible tie-up between the NCP and Sena, senior BJP leaders, including the party's national general secretary Gopinath Munde, state unit president Nitin Gadkari and state unit general secretary Vinod Tavde rushed to Ahmedabad to meet Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi who is in charge for Maharashtra in the BJP for coming Lok Sabha elections.
The meeting with Modi that began around 1830 hrs, continued till late in the evening. It was decided that if necessary, all the leaders would go to Delhi and meet the BJP's prime ministerial candidate, L K Advani.
A senior leader from the party said: "The Shiv Sena is our natural ally and we don't wish to part our ways. But we are preparing ourselves for every eventuality."