Shiv Sena, the bickering ally of the BJP at the state and the centre, once again heaped praises on Rahul Gandhi on Sunday, saying that though the newly-elected Congress President failed to take his party to victory in the Gujarat Assembly elections, he had ensured that the party emerged “victorious”.
“Rahul Gandhi, who was taunted as ‘Pappu’, has shattered the notion that victory only means power, and that power can be bought,” Shiv Sena leader Sanjay Raut said in an editorial for the party’s mouthpiece Saamana.
Raut added that the Gujarat election was a contest between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Rahul Gandhi.
He said that though the BJP campaign had entirely focused on Gandhi, the Congress president gave a “befitting reply” to those who dreamed of a “Congress-mukt Bharat”. The Shiv Sena leader said Gandhi had pulled Congress out from the ashes.
“Until now, Gandhi has been unsuccessful. A machinery (the BJP) was working overtime to taunt him. However, Gujarat has broken his series of unsuccessful ventures. He campaigned well, gave patient speeches, endured criticism and defamation and has emerged a strong leader,” Raut Said.
Raut said that BJP president Amit Shah had vowed to win 350 Lok Sabha seats. “He had also said if BJP won less than 150 seats, victory celebrations should not be held. But BJP ended up securing less than 100, which proves that Rahul Gandhi remains a challenge for 2019 elections,” he said.
The Sena leader said he was not a Congress supporter. “But if a strong opposition was ready to stand behind Rahul, we welcome it,” he said.
The Maharashtra Congress welcomed the Shiv Sena’s change of stance on Rahul Gandhi. “It is clear that people, parties and the Opposition in the country have realised the kind of leadership that Rahul Gandhi is providing,” Congress Spokesperson Sanjay Sawant said.
“As against the divisive politics practised by the BJP and Modi, the Congress and its president Rahul Gandhi believed in inclusive politics and taking each and every citizen of this country along. While Gandhi believed in positive leadership, Modi was spreading negativity,” he added.
For the last few months, particularly after its relations with the state BJP stooped drastically, the Shiv Sena has been heaping praise on Congress and Rahul Gandhi.
After the Gujarat elections, Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray had sung paeans to Rahul Gandhi. Saamana had called him a “baazigar” and said the Gujarat model was trembling.