- Sena leader Sanjay Raut said Rahul Gandhi's hug was a shock to the PM
- He said Mr Gandhi graduated from "the real school of politics"
- Shiv Sena decided against participating in the no-trust vote
Shiv Sena, the BJP's cantankerous ally that embarrassed its alliance partner by skipping Friday's no-trust vote, is rubbing it. Hours after Congress president Rahul Gandhi spoke in parliament, the Shiv Sena rushed to applaud his speech and the hug that has been sharply criticised by the BJP and Lok Sabha Speaker Sumitra Mahajan.
"It is clear that Rahul Gandhi has graduated from "the real school of politics," Sena leader Sanjay Raut said.
The Sena was one of the first political party outside the UPA last year to declare that the 48-year-old Congress leader, once derisively called pappu by his rivals, had overcome this image and was capable to running the country. Again, when the BJP attacked him for his prime ministerial ambitions in the run up to the Karnataka assembly elections, the Sena had come out in his support.
Mr Raut said the Congress president's hug to the prime minister at the end of his speech was actually a shock for Narendra Modi.
"This wasn't a hug, but a shock to PM Modi," Mr Raut said, brushing aside criticism leveled by his critics.
"People say this is drama but there is drama in politics," Mr Raut shot back.
His party the Shiv Sena too had stunned the BJP on Friday when it decided, at the last moment, against participating in the no-trust vote.
The Sena's stand had the BJP running for cover, especially since top ministers in the government had been claiming that the Shiv Sena would vote along with the BJP after party boss Amit Shah dialed Uddhav Thackeray on Thursday.
Mr Raut credited his party boss Mr Thackeray for the bold decision.
"Shiv Sena took a decision. You need courage, guts to take such a decision, Uddhav Thackeray has demonstrated that he has it," he said.
The Sena, the oldest NDA ally, partners with the BJP in the Maharashtra government and the central government.
The decision to abstain from Friday's vote coincided with an all-out attack in the Sena mouthpiece Saamana, which carried an editorial saying: "Those ruling the country are butchers, who save animals but kill humans."
Uddhav Thackeray's overnight change of stance and decision to abstain was conveyed to party legislators this morning at a meeting held in parliament.
"Shiv Sena is the party which always follows directive of party chief. We have decided to take a principled stand after the government made so many mistakes on land acquisition, demonetization," the Sena's Anandrao Adsul had told NDTV earlier on Friday.
The Shiv Sena has repeatedly said that it will be fighting the 2019 election alone.