A number of opposition leaders on Monday attended Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister N Chandrababu Naidu's day-long fast and slammed Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his party over a host of issues. However, what might pinch the most is Sanjay Raut's surprise appearance at the congregation of opposition parties. The leader attended the event as a representative of the Shiv Sena, amid strains with ally BJP. The bonhomie between the TDP chief and the BJP's ally was made evident when Mr Naidu called Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray his "best friend".
"Uddhav Thackeray is the best friend of mine. Even Bal Thackeray was very affectionate towards me. I really appreciate Shiv Sena chief for extending the cooperation," Mr Naidu was quoted by news agency ANI.
Mr Naidu followed the praise with an attack on Prime Minister Narendra Modi. "Narendra Modi is a vindictive leader with whom even Shiv Sena is not happy," he added.
The Andhra Chief Minister's one-day fast to demand special status to his state was attended by opposition leaders like National Conference chairperson Farooq Abdullah, NCP's Majeed Memon, DMK's Tiruchi Siva and Loktantrik Janata Dal's Sharad Yadav. Congress leaders Digvijaya Singh and Kamal Nath were also in attendance.
"I took the principal stand to protect democracy, to save the democracy. If there is no democracy neither I nor Sanjay Raut or Digvijay Singh would be able to talk anything which is very dangerous for the nation," Mr Naidu added.
The BJP and the Shiv Sena are allies in Maharashtra and at the centre. However, the two parties have maintained an acrimonious equation over the years. With Lok Sabha elections round the corner, the BJP is trying to woo the party. The Uddhav Thackeray led party is, however, playing hardball, saying it would go solo in the upcoming elections.
The Sena has been attacking the government over a host of issues. Last year, the party had backed the opposition's demand of a JPC probe in the Rafale jet deal. The most poignant attack came from Mr Thackeray when he repeated the Congress slogan at a rally. "Chowkidaar chor hai', he said at a rally in Maharashtra's Pandharpur last year.
Earlier this month, election strategist and BJP ally Prashant Kishor met Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray and his son Aditya Thackeray. Their discussions over lunch - photos of which were tweeted by Thackeray Junior -- had caused much buzz in view of the coming elections.
Though Sena leader Sanjay Raut had called it a "courtesy visit", the day after the visit, there were newspaper reports that he had undertaken to have his team craft the campaign for the Sena.
Mr Kishor's party had denied the reports.
With inputs from ANI
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