Shiv Sena leader Sanjay Raut confirmed Uddhav’s visit but did not disclose when. File pic
His ties with saffron ally BJP under strain, Shiv Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray will visit Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s constituency Varanasi soon, amid clear indications that the party would contest next year’s assembly polls in Uttar Pradesh.
Though Uddhav will visit the holy city apparently to perform Ganga Aarti, the move is being seen as an attempt at testing political waters in the key Hindi heartland state before taking the electoral plunge. Sena leader Sanjay Raut confirmed Uddhav will visit Varanasi but did not disclose when.
According to party sources, Sena plans to contest around 200 out of the 403 seats in the state, a move which could adversely affect BJP’s prospects in the election.
Sena taking ‘keen’ interest
Congress chief Sonia Gandhi too had launched her party’s campaign from Varanasi by staging a massive road show on August 2. Raut, a Rajya Sabha MP, said leaders from all the major parties, including BJP, BSP, SP and Congress, were in touch with the party, which is taking a “keen interest” in the elections this time. Raut dismissed suggestions that Sena was focusing on Uttar Pradesh as a tit-for-tat after local BJP leaders in Mumbai threatened to go it alone in the BMC elections.
“Should the Sena not expand its base?” Raut retorted when asked whether or not his party’s plans could upset BJP’s applecart in the crucial cow-belt state. He said if the BJP felt that way, it should align with his party.