The Shiv Sena on Sunday said that though Congress President Rahul Gandhi’s party had failed to win a majority in the Gujarat Assembly elections, he had ensured that the party emerged “victorious”, The Indian Express reported.

“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. He added that the Gujarat election was a contest between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Rahul Gandhi.

Raut 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,” Raut said. “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 claimed that the BJP winning less than 100 seats in Gujarat showed that Gandhi posed a challenge to Modi for the 2019 general elections. The Shiv Sena leader said he was not a Congress supporter. “But if a strong opposition was ready to stand behind Rahul Gandhi, we welcome it,” he added.

Congress welcomes Shiv Sena’s stand

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.