Raj Thackeray meets Sonia Gandhi

Raj Thackeray meets Sonia Gandhi

MNS chief Raj Thackeray on Monday met UPA Chairperson Sonia Gandhi, setting political tongues wagging about a possible electoral tie-up between the Congress and his party ahead of the Assembly elections in Maharashtra.

The meeting at 10-Janpath came after Thackeray met the Election Commission, demanding a return to ballot papers shunning the controversial Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) in the upcoming Maharashtra Assembly polls.

The issue of EVMs, sources said, also figured in Thackeray's meeting with Sonia, with the MNS chief saying that her party should take the lead in organising a nationwide protest against the machines and demanding a return to ballot papers.

This was Thackeray's first visit to the national capital in over a decade and his meeting with Sonia is significant, as the MNS had campaigned for the Opposition by taking an anti-BJP stand in the recently concluded Lok Sabha elections.

While NCP was keen to involve the MNS, the Congress was not keen to be seen with the Raj Thackeray-led outfit, mainly due to its stand against north Indians.

It is also interesting that Thackeray chose to meet Sonia and not Rahul, who has recently quit the post of president of the Congress party, owning up responsibility for the Lok Sabha election debacle.

Thackeray's MNS, which did not contest the election, has not clicked well in Maharashtra and it would need electoral partners in the Assembly polls to register an impressive performance.

Political pundits are reading his meeting with Sonia as a possible start of negotiations for a Grand Alliance in Maharashtra, to take on the Devendra Fadnavis-led BJP, which is seeking a second term in the state.

Sources said the Congress is also keen on a tie-up with Prakash Ambedkar-led Vanchit Bahujan Aghadi, which is said to have eaten up Opposition votes in the recently concluded Lok Sabha elections.