Following his meeting with Congress MP Rahul Gandhi on Tuesday, Shiv Sena MP Sanjay Raut said: “An Opposition front is not possible without Congress.”
“The face of the Opposition front may be a matter of discussion. Rahul Gandhi will soon visit Mumbai. There should be only one opposition front,” Raut added. He further added, “Sharad Pawar is a tall and strong leader. He will sort the differences between Trinamool Congress (TMC) and Congress.”
Raut also described the meeting as having been long and added: “I will first meet Uddhav Thackeray and then we’ll talk about it.”
Raut is also likely to meet Priyanka Gandhi Vadra on Wednesday. The Sena, the Congress, and the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) are in alliance in Maharashtra’s Maha Vikas Aghadi government.
The meet comes just days after Trinamool Congress (TMC) supremo Mamata Banerjee met Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) chief Sharad Pawar in Mumbai, where her remarks of “no UPA left” in the country made headlines. Her comments had sparked speculations of Banerjee contemplating an Opposition alliance without the Congress. Banerjee had also met Raut and Maharashtra minister Aditya Thackeray during her visit. The Congress had reacted sharply to Banerjee’s comments and the speculations, saying that there cannot be a strong Opposition alliance without the party.
Shiv Sena sources describe the meeting between Sanjay Raut and Rahul Gandhi as routine, saying that the Sena leadership often connects with Rahul Gandhi over issues related to the coordination of the Sena-NCP-Congress alliance government in Maharashtra.
Congress sources, however, indicated that the Sena might back the Congress in the state elections early next year, amid indications that the two parties, might be inching towards a wider understanding.
Though the Sena has negligible presence in some of these states, like Punjab and Uttar Pradesh, the political symbolism of extending support to the Congress speaks to the surprising, newfound proximity of the two ideologically opposed parties who had struggled to come together in the first place.
Some reports suggest the Sena might even join the UPA and try to mend the rift between the Congress and Mamata Banerjee.