Maharashtra leader Raj Thackeray on Monday met UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi in Delhi, raising expectations of a formal alliance ahead of the assembly election in the state. The two met at Sonia Gandhi's official residence. The leader of Maharashtra Navnirman Sena had come to Delhi to meet Chief Election Commissioner Sunil Arora, whom he asked to replace Electronic Voting Machines with paper ballots in the coming assembly elections in the state.
Mr Thackeray's party had not contested in the national elections, but he had sided with the opposition, becoming one of its most enthusiastic campaigners. His sharp attacks against Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Amit Shah had been widely circulated on social media.
"Laav re clip" -- his call to aides for playing a clip of the Prime Minister's promises, which he then ripped apart -- became almost a tagline of his rallies and a talking point far beyond the borders of Maharashtra.
The Congress is in alliance with Sharad Pawar in the state. But the party had made it clear that it is not interested in a formal alliance with Mr Thackeray, whose anti-migrant rhetoric had always been opposed by the Congress.
Raj Thackeray's meeting with Sonia Gandhi was their second -- he had come calling the last time with an invite for his son's wedding. Both Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi had skipped the event.
Monday's meeting has also raised speculation about Sharad Pawar's role in bringing it about. Though Mr Pawar had gone along with the Congress decision of keeping the younger Thackeray out of an official alliance, he has been known to be more open to the idea.
The performance of the alliance has been dismal in Maharashtra. The Congress could pick up just one of the state's 48 Lok Sabha seats, Sharad Pawar's Party managed only four.
Raj Thackeray has been at loggerheads with his cousin, Shiv Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray, who is in an alliance with the BJP in the state. In 2005, he had broken away from Shiv Sena and formed his Maharashtra Navnirman Sena the next year.
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