Mumbai: In a statement, which is not likely to go down well with the BJP, a senior leader of its estranged ally in Maharashtra - Shiv Sena - has said that the magic of Prime Minister Narendra Modi has faded and Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi is capable of leading the country.
Shiv Sena MP Sanjay Raut made these remarks while participating in a discussion on a TV news channel on Thursday, according to PTI.
Stating reasons for rising public anger against the Narendra Modi-led BJP government, Raut blamed the faulty implementation of the Goods and Services Tax (GST) by the Centre, which, he alleged, has made the life miserable for small traders and businessmen.
The implementation of GST is an indication that the BJP would face a stiff challenge in polls, scheduled to be held in December, Raut added.
Praising Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi, Raut said that it is wrong to call the Gandhi scion 'Pappu'.
"Rahul Gandhi is capable of leading the country. It is wrong to call him 'Pappu'," he said referring to the nickname used to mock the Congress vice-president by a section on social media.
Interestingly, Maharashtra State Education Minister and senior BJP leader Vinod Tawde was also present at the event.
"The biggest political power in this country is people...the voters. 'Woh kisi ko bhi Pappu bana sakte hai' (People can make anyone pappu)," the Sena leader said in an apparent dig at the BJP which had secured a massive mandate in 2014 polls.
Shiv Sena, the oldest constituent of the NDA, shares a 'love-hate' relationship with its senior ally, the BJP, in the Centre and Maharashtra.
The Uddhav Thackeray-led party has been attacking Prime Minister Modi regularly and has often taken potshots at the BJP through editorials in the party mouthpiece "Saamana".
Raut's comments came a day after the schedule for Gujarat polls was announced.
Though Sena lacks any base in Gujarat - the home state of Modi - the party had extended its support to Patidar leader Hardik Patel who had met Uddhav Thackeray at the latter's residence in Mumbai earlier this year.
"The Modi wave was there in 2014 General Elections but now it seems to have faded away. The way people are marching on roads of Gujarat after GST was introduced, it seems they (BJP) are going to face a challenge," Raut added.
In 2015, Shiv Sena had said that even 100 Rahul Gandhis cannot match Prime Minister Narendra Modi's "mega wave" and had mocked the Congress vice president for his 'suit-boot ki sarkar' jibe.
With PTI inputs