Mumbai: Uddhav Thackeray-led Shiv Sena has embarrassed its NDA ally BJP yet again. And now, one of its senior leaders has called the BJP the "principal enemy" of Shiv Sena, saying that it is part of the Maharashtra government "just for the sake of it".
These remarks were made by Shiv Sena MP Sanjay Raut on the eve of the Devendra Fadnavis government's third anniversary.
According to PTI, the Shiv Sena lawmaker also heaped praise on Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi, saying there has been a substantial change in him over the last three years.
"The BJP owns the government. We are (in the government) just for the sake of it. Instead of hitting out at the Congress and NCP, the BJP targets the Shiv Sena. They (the BJP) are thus our principal enemy," Raut was quoted as telling reporters in Nashik.
On Rahul Gandhi, the Shiv Sena leader said, ''A leader is one who is accepted by people. There is a substantial change in Rahul Gandhi since 2014. People like to listen to him now."
He also stated that the Uddhav Thackeray-led party has begun preparations for the Lok Sabha and assembly polls of 2019 and it is ready to fight elections with or without the BJP.
To a question on the Shiv Sena's stand on encroachment by hawkers on the Mumbai streets, Raut added that his party's founder late Bal Thackeray was the first to raise the issue.
"Bala-saheb was the first person to speak on this issue. Today, unless the chief minister provides police protection to corporation employees, the civic body cannot remove encroachments," he said.
Asked about former Congress leader Narayan Rane - who started his career with the Shiv Sena before a bitter parting of ways - joining the state cabinet, Raut said he had been hearing rumours of cabinet expansion for long, and he would comment on it only when it happens.
Chief minister Devendra Fadnavis had on Monday said that the cabinet reshuffle will take place before the winter session of the state legislature, and Rane, who quit the Congress recently to form his own party, will be inducted into the cabinet.
Hitting out at the Narendra Modi-led BJP disposition, Shiv Sena had on Monday lamented that despite a "pro-Hindutva" government at the Centre, issues like Ram Temple in Ayodhya and 'ghar wapsi' of displaced Kashmiri Pandits are still unresolved.
In an acerbic editorial in its mouthpiece 'Saamana', the Maharashtra-based party also countered Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh (RSS) chief Mohan Bhagwat's recent remark that 'Hindustan' is a country of Hindus, but it does not mean that India does not belong to "others".
With PTI inputs