Shiv Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray turned 58 on Friday and leaders across political parties including Prime Minister Narendra Modi wished him but the warm greetings for the first time from Congress president Rahul Gandhi raised eyebrows in political circles.
Besides Modi and Gandhi, Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis and his West Bengal counterpart and TMC chief Mamata Banerjee greeted Thackeray. The leaders took to Twitter to extend their birthday wishes.
“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 Rahul Gandhi’s speech during the debate in the Lok Sabha. Gandhi had launched a blistering attack on the Modi government after which Sena leader Sanjay Raut said the Congress chief has now graduated from the “real school of politics”.
It was for the first time that Rahul 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,” Gandhi tweeted.
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 built 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.”
“Wishing Uddhav Thackeray ji a very happy birthday,” tweeted Banerjee.
The TMC chief’s outreach comes 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. Banerjee had met Thackeray during her visit to Mumbai last year.
“Heartiest birthday greetings Shri #UddhavThackeray ji !Wishing you a long life and good health,” Fadnavis said.