Days after West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee took a dig at the Congress with her “there is no UPA” remark, Shiv Sena leader Sanjay Raut in a clear message to her categorically stated that “there can be no opposition front without the Congress.”
The Congress is heading the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) which ruled the country from 2004 to 2014 before the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) stormed into power at the Centre.
Sanjay Raut, who had a long meeting with Congress leader Rahul Gandhi on Tuesday, also said that there should be only one opposition front to take on the BJP.
However, the Sena leader also made it clear that Congress may not be the natural leader of the alliance and said “the face of the opposition front may be a matter of discussion.”
On the possibility of Shiv Sena joining the UPA, Sanjay Raut said he will first meet Uddhav Thackeray and then respond to the question.
The Shiv Sena and the Congress, alongwith Sharad Pawar’s Nationalist Congress Party, are part of the ruling alliance in Maharashtra.
Ironically, the Shiv Sena, which was part of the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance till 2019, has openly backed the Congress while Sharad Pawar, who has been a Union minister in the UPA governments has been non-committal about the presence of Congress in the opposition front.
It is worthwhile to mention that Mamata Banerjee’s UPA remark and her digs at Rahul Gandhi’s trips abroad were made in the presence of Sharad Pawar.
However, the NCP leader himself did not say anything against the Congress. When asked specifically about the grand old party, Pawar said everyone willing to oppose the BJP can join the opposition alliance.
For the Congress, Shiv Sena’s stand would come as a huge boost.
Regional heavyweights like Lalu Prasad in Bihar and Akhilesh Yadav in Uttar Pradesh have in the recent past not just targeted the Congress, but also questioned its utility as an ally.
In Bihar, the RJD refused to ally with the Congress for the bypolls to the two seats that were held recently.
However, the RJD, which was bouyed by the campaigning of Lalu Prasad after a long time, lost both the seats to Nitish Kumar’s Janta Dal (United).
The results later showed that at least in one seat, the RJD may have fared better if it had allied with the Congress.
In Uttar Pradesh, Akhilesh Yadav, who has refused to contest the assembly polls in alliance with the Congress, recently took a dig at the grand old party and said it may not be able to open its account in the state.
(With inputs from agencies)