Mumbai, Nov 15 : In a strong indication of the changing political equations in Maharashtra, the Congress and the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) unitedly wished their once bitter political rival Shiv Sena MP Sanjay Raut on his 58th birthday on Friday.
Taking the lead, state Congress President Balasaheb Thorat greeted Raut warmly and expressed his best wishes to the Sena MP, even as the three parties hope to form the next government in the state.
Almost going overboard, former state Congress President and ex-Chief Minister Ashok Chavan said "My heartiest wishes to our friend Sanjay on his birthday and hope that all his wishes and desires are fulfilled, and I pray to God to give him happiness, success, good health and a long life."
Going a step further, NCP leader Jitendra Awhad personally called on Raut and offered him a large bouquet and a warm hug, saying a golden period has begun for "the bold fighter and a committed Shiv Sainik (Sanjay Raut)".
Senior Congress leader Nana Patole expressed his "best wishes to my old friend Raut on his birthday" and former state party chief Manikrao Thakare also conveyed similar birthday sentiments.
Earlier this week, several Congress and NCP leaders including Thorat, Chavan, Thakare, Sharad Pawar, Supriya Sule, Chhagan Bhujbal and others had called on Raut at the Lilavati Hospital where he underwent an angioplasty late on Monday night.
Though former Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) minister Ashish Shelar also called on Raut at the hospital, it was not known if any leader from the Sena's erstwhile ally greeted Raut on Friday.
However, several Sena leaders including Kishore Tiwari and others joined in greeting Raut - who single-handedly set the ball rolling for a potentially tectonic shift in Maharashtra politics.
The Shiv Sena-NCP-Congress are currently engaged in giving finishing touches to form the next government in Maharashtra through a political alliance.
After a series of meetings, the Common Minimum Programme is ready and the decision on their likely alliance is expected to come shortly as the three parties finalise the nitty-gritty involving the posts of Chief Minister and Deputy Chief Minister, ministries and other aspects of power sharing.
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