On the other hand, prime minister Narendra Modi and BJP president Amit Shah also extended their birthday greetings to the Shiv Sena leader.
Mumbai: In an unprecedented development, Shiv Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray on Friday received a warm birthday greeting from Congress president Rahul Gandhi, which set political tongues wagging in Maharashtra. On the other hand, prime minister Narendra Modi and BJP president Amit Shah also extended their birthday greetings to the Shiv Sena leader.
“Best wishes to Shri Uddhav Thackerayji, on his birthday. I wish him good health and happiness always,” Mr Gandhi in an early-bird tweet, sent the Sena in a tizzy. This move could be an indication of what the future may hold, feel experts.
Even though thousands of people wished Mr Thackeray on his birthday, it was the message from Rahul Gandhi that was the most special for him. This was the first time in the history that any national leader of Congress party has extended pleasantries to the Shiv Sena leader, who the Congress has always kept at an arm's distance.
This is a phase of new bonhomie between the Congress and Shiv Sena in the last couple of years. In fact, there was an attempt to topple the BJP government in the state last year by bringing Shiv Sena, Congress and NCP together. However, the Shiv Sena backed out from it because it did not trust the NCP.
Congress is trying to form an anti-BJP alliance across the country. However, a senior Congress leader said that a direct alliance with the Shiv Sena may prove counter-productive for the Congress. “We can have some kind of strategic understanding with the Shiv Sena, but cannot afford to be seen to be allied with them,” he said.
The Shiv Sena has also declared that it would go solo in the 2019 elections. The Shiv Sena leadership has been praising Rahul Gandhi on several occasions recently, the most recent being the incident when Rahul Gandhi hugged Mr Modi in Parliament.
Leaders across political parties including Prime Minister Narendra Modi wished Mr Thackeray.
"Birthday wishes to Shri Uddhav Thackeray. May Almighty bless him with a long and healthy life in service of society," Modi, who is in South Africa for the BRICS Summit, tweeted.
The BJP has been trying its best to convince Shiv Sena not to leave the NDA. BJP President Amit Shah called Mr Thackeray on his birthday for a few minutes. However, Shiv Sena leaders are saying that, there was no political discussion between the two. Maharashtra revenue minister Chandrakant Patil, who is a close confidante of Mr Shah, also personally visited Thackeray's residence 'Matoshri' to wish him.
Trinamul Congress chief Mamata Banerjee, who is also trying to build an anti-BJP front at the national level, extended her greetings via twitter. "Wishing Uddhav Thackeray ji a very happy birthday," she wrote.