Mumbai/New Delhi: Leaders across the political spectrum wished Shiv Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray on his 58th birthday on Friday but it was Congress president Rahul Gandhi’s message on Twitter that raised eyebrows in political circles.
Besides Modi and Gandhi, Maharashtra chief minister Devendra Fadnavis and his West Bengal counterpart and TMC chief Mamata Banerjee also greeted Thackeray on Twitter, even though the Sena chief does not have an account on the microblogging site.
“Birthday wishes to Shri Uddhav Thackeray. May Almighty bless him with a long and healthy life in service of society,” Modi, who is in South Africa for the BRICS Summit, tweeted.
The greetings from Modi came amid strains between the saffron allies with the Sena being openly critical of the BJP-led government and the prime minister over polices and the handling of crucial issues.
Sena's MPs in the Lok Sabha stayed away from voting in the no-confidence vote brought against the government by the Telugu Desam Party (TDP) in the Lok Sabha last Friday and supported by various opposition parties.
The Sena had also praised Gandhi's speech during the debate in the Lok Sabha. The Congress chief had launched a blistering attack on the Modi government after which Sena leader Sanjay Raut said he had graduated from the “real school of politics”.
It was for the first time that Gandhi publicly greeted Thackeray on his birthday, according to Raut.
Best wishes to Shri Uddhav Thackeray ji, on his birthday. I wish him good health and happiness always.— Rahul Gandhi (@RahulGandhi) 27 July 2018
Reacting to Gandhi's gesture, Raut said, “Uddhavji gets birthday greetings from all over the country and outside. This time, he (Rahul Gandhi) has openly greeted him on Twitter.”
A Congress source said, “The gesture (birthday greetings) can also be seen as an effort to prove that he can go beyond political rivalry to build personal relations.”
State Congress spokesman Sachin Sawant said, “Rahul Gandhi has greeted the head of another political party. Nothing more should be read into this.”
Banerjee’s wishes, which came at a time when she is making a determined bid to bring together a multi-party front to take on the BJP in the 2019 Lok Sabha polls, also attracted attention. Banerjee had met Thackeray during her visit to Mumbai last year.