BJP president Amit Shah will be in Maharashtra on a three-day tour from tomorrow during which he is expected to meet Shiv Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray, whose party has threatened to take an “independent stand” in the presidential poll. “We are hopeful of getting the Sena’s votes,” a senior BJP leader said, adding that the regional party would not like to vote against a candidate most likely to become the next president. Sena mouthpiece Saamana has reported that Shah will meet Thackeray on June 18. Ties between the two Hindutva parties have been strained for long due to the power tussle between them in Maharashtra. The Sena has a history of voting against the BJP’s choice in the presidential polls. Sena spokesperson Sanjay Raut had recently said his party may take an independent stand in the polls. Sena had proposed the name of RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat for the post. While Bhagwat expressed his unwillingness, the proposal also drew little enthusiasm from the BJP. BJP leaders have been expressing confidence that they are in a position to get their candidate elected for the top constitutional post with the support of allies as well as some regional parties. Sena had gone with the UPA’s choice of Pratibha Patil and Pranab Mukherjee in 2007 and 2012 despite being an ally of the BJP, which had supported Bhairon Singh Shekhawat in 2007 and P A Sangma five years later. Both Patil and Mukherjee had emerged victorious. Shah is scheduled to offer floral tributes to Shivaji, Bhimrao Ambedkar, Veer Savarkar and Shiv Sena founder Balasaheb Thackeray at Shivaji Park tomorrow. He will later meet BJP MPs, MLAs, state office bearers, heads of districts and mandals besides other elected eepresentatives before a meeting with state ministers at the chief minister’s residence, a party statement said. He will also meet all party MPs.
On June 17, he will meet core committee members of the state and later take part in other party events. On the last day of his tour, Shah will hold a meeting of the ‘Pandit Deendayal Upadhyaya Birth Centenary Year Karya Vistarak Yojana’ in Mumbai and review various programmes to strengthen the party at the booth-level, the party statement said. Shah is visiting all states over a 110-day tour, part of his efforts to further strengthen the party ahead of the 2019 general election.