Raj Thackeray's meeting with Sonia Gandhi an attempt to be part of 'Maha' Gathbandhan?

Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) chief Raj Thackeray on Monday met UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi here that raised quite a few eyebrows in political circles. Now reports have surfaced saying that Raj Thackeray's meeting with Sonia Gandhi may be an attempt by the MNS to be part of 'Maha' Gathbandhan for the state assembly elections.

According to the DNA, during Lok Sabha elections, though Raj had denied that his party was looking for an alliance with the Congress-NCP, senior Congress leaders confirmed that during their seat-sharing discussions, the NCP had sought to bring the MNS on board. The alliance with MNS was been opposed by a section of the Congress leadership in Mumbai on grounds of "ideological differences", and the impact on the north Indian voters.

A senior MNS leader told the leading daily, "There is a possibility that we may enter into an electoral understanding with the Congress- NCP for the assembly, if not an alliance. Some Congress leaders had opposed plans for the MNS to be included in the Congress-NCP alliance. This visit may help send a strong message to them." The leader also denied speculation that the MNS might stay away from the assembly polls to protest the use of electronic voting machines (EVMs). "The meeting with Sonia Gandhi could have also aimed at creating a larger consensus among political parties against the use of EVMs in the electoral process," the MNS leader told the DNA.

Sonia and Thackrey reportedly discussed political developments including the issue of EVMs over which opposition parties have demanded going back to paper ballots in elections. During the recent Lok Sabha elections, the MNS was willing to be part of the Congress-NCP alliance in Maharashtra but Congress was reportedly averse to such a proposal.

Raj in his visit to the national capital, the first in more than a decade, Thackeray said he has submitted a letter to the Election Commission, demanding it to switch back to the traditional paper ballot. He termed the meeting "mere formality". He said that he strongly feels that the EVMs can be tampered with.

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