A meeting between Shiv Sena leader Sanjay Raut and former Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis on Saturday triggered political speculation, reported NDTV.
Raut, who met Fadnavis at a luxury hotel in Mumbai, clarified that the meeting was for an interview for the Shiv Sena mouthpiece Saamna, adding that the party chief Uddhav Thackeray was aware of it. Raut is in charge of Saamna. Saturday’s meeting ran for two hours, according to India Today.
“Devendra Fadnavis is not our enemy,” Raut told reporters. “We have worked with him. Is it a crime to meet Fadnavis, who is a former chief minister and now the Opposition leader in the state Assembly? We have ideological differences but we are not enemies.”
Raut said he had interviewed Nationalist Congress Party chief Sharad Pawar and had also announced that he would speak to Fadnavis, Union Home Minister Amit Shah, and former Congress chief Rahul Gandhi.
On Sunday, Fadnavis asserted that his party had no plans to form an alliance with the Shiv Sena to bring down the Thackeray-led state government, reported PTI. He claimed that the people of Maharashtra were “unhappy” with the Sena-NCP-Congress coalition government, adding that it “would collapse due to its own inactions”.
“We have no intention of joining hands with Shiv Sena or to bring down the government,” he said. “When it falls on its own, we will see. My meeting with Raut had no political connotations.”
Maharashtra Bharatiya Janata Party spokesperson Keshav Upadhye said the meeting had no political motive. “Raut wanted to interview Fadnavis for (the Sena mouthpiece) Saamna and this meeting was to discuss how to go about it,” he tweeted. “Fadnavis informed Raut that he would grant him the interview after returning from the Bihar poll campaign.”
The meeting raised eyebrows as Raut has been a strong critic of the BJP-led Centre as well as the party’s state unit during the Maharashtra Assembly elections.
In November, Raut had said his party would not get back with the BJP, its former alliance partner, even if it were offered Hindu god Indra’s throne. In Hindu mythology, Indra is the king of gods.
On October 21, elections to the 288-member Maharashtra Assembly were held. The BJP had contested the polls in an alliance with the Shiv Sena. However, following the results on October 24, the two parties were unable to form a government as they fell out over a power-sharing agreement.
The Sena claimed that before the Lok Sabha elections, then BJP chief Amit Shah had promised it the chief minister’s post for two-and-a-half years. The Shiv Sena had also demanded half of all Cabinet berths, but the BJP rejected these demands. After a political impasse for several weeks, the Congress, the NCP, and the Shiv Sena forged an alliance, and Thackeray was sworn in as chief minister of Maharashtra.