ONCE again displaying its new-found affection for the new Congress president and his party, the Shiv Sena Sunday said Rahul Gandhi might have failed to secure victory for his party in the Gujarat assembly elections but he ensured that his party emerged “victorious”. The Maharashtra Congress welcomed the Sena’s changed stand, saying people, parties and the opposition had realised the “positive leadership” of Rahul Gandhi.
“Rahul Gandhi who was taunted as Pappu has shattered the notion that victory only means power and power can be bought…” said Sanjay Raut, executive editor of Sena mouthpiece Saamana. In his special column in the paper’s Sunday supplement, Raut said, “The Gujarat election was between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Rahul Gandhi. He made the BJP and the PM sweat it out…” Raut said though the entire focus of BJP campaigning was on Rahul Gandhi, the Congress president gave a befitting reply to those who dreamt of a “Congress-mukt Bharat”.
The Shiv Sena said Rahul had pulled out Congress from the ashes. “In Uttar Pradesh, Congress tied up with Samajwadi Party but failed to achieve success. Till now he has remained unsuccessful…A machinery was working overtime to taunt him as an idiot and unsuccessful…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,” he said.
“Rahul Gandhi kept saying he respected Prime Minister’s post and he is at odds with ‘egoist’ Modi…I want to fight this war with patience and decently,” Raut said in the write-up.
He said 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,” said Raut.
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. 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.
Reacting to Sena’s changed stand, Congress spokesperson Sachin Sawant said, “We welcome the Sena’s reaction. It is clear that people, parties and the opposition in the country have realised the kind of leadership that Rahul Gandhi is providing. As against the divisive politics practised by the BJP and Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the Congress and its president Rahul Gandhi believed in inclusive politics and taking each and every citizen of this country along. While Rahul Gandhi believed in positive leadership, Modi was spreading negativity.”
For months now, especially after its relations with the state BJP soured drastically, the Shiv Sena has been heaping praise on Congress and Rahul Gandhi. “For years, the Sena had been vitriolic on its attack on the Congress. But now it is clear that the Shiv Sena does not find Congress untouchable. Till the national leadership clear the air about Congress relations with the Sena, we will have to keep quiet,” said a Congress leader.