Congress interim chief Sonia Gandhi has still not decided on attending Shiv Sena President Udhav Thackeray’s grand swearing-in ceremony in Mumbai later in the day. When News Nation asked her the question about Sena’s invitation, Sonia Gandhi said, “abhi decide nahi hua hai (it is yet not decided).” It should be noted that Sena chief’s son and newly elected MLA Aaditya Thackeray had flown down to Delhi and met Gandhi to personally invite her for the ceremony. There are reports coming in that ex-Prime Minister Manmohan Singh is also likely to skip the event. Should that be the case, then it will send out the message that the Congress is still not inclined to be seen with the Shiv Sena, with whom it had strong ideological differences.
During the Congress Parliamentary Party Meeting, Gandhi spoke on several issues such as divestment of PSUs and ongoing situation in Kashmir. “BJP made shameless efforts in Maharashtra. Profit making Public Sector Undertakings (PSU) are being sold to Narendra Modi's friends.” On WhatsApp privacy breach issue, Gandhi said that Narendra Modi government is taking away fundamental rights. “Political leaders of India were not allowed in Jammu and Kashmir but some European MPs were, it was a shameful act by Narendra Modi & Amit Shah,” she added.
The reluctance behind Congress leadership over new-found friendship with the Shiv Sena is being viewed as a political compulsion. In fact, last time when the three parties – Shiv Sena, NCP and the Congress – were trying to stich up an alliance, the Grand Old Party had almost decided not to be part of the rainbow coalition. There were reports that the Congress interim chief and her son Rahul Gandhi were not in favour of any alliance with the Shiv Sena.
In fact, at one point in its mouthpiece Saamana, Shiv Sena had taken a sharp swipe at Sonia Gandhi and termed her as ‘Italian Mummy’. Shiv Sena founder Bal Thackeray was openly critical about Sonia Gandhi’s foreign origin. An earlier Indian Express report had quoted Pranab Mukherjee’s book, where the former President wrote that, ‘Sonia Gandhi was not enthusiastic about my meeting Bal Thackeray and advised me to avoid it if possible. Sonia Gandhi’s reservations about Thackeray were based on her own perception of his policies.’ Mukherjee had gone and met Thackeray in the run-up to the 2012 presidential election despite Sonia Gandhi’s reservation against such meeting.