Mumbai: Shiv Sena member of Parliament (MP) Sanjay Raut on Thursday said Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi is capable of leading the country and stressed that the Narendra Modi wave has faded, a statement that is not likely to go down well with the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

The anger among people in Gujarat against the implementation of the goods and services tax (GST) is an indication that the BJP would face a stiff challenge in polls, scheduled to be held in December, he said.

Raut was addressing a discussion on a TV channel. “Congress leader Rahul Gandhi is capable of leading the country. It is wrong to call him ‘Pappu’,” he said referring to the nickname used to mock the Congress vice-president by a section on social media.

State education minister and senior BJP leader Vinod Tawde was also present at the event.

“The biggest political power in this country is people… the voters. Woh kisi ko bhi Pappu bana sakte hai (People can make anyone pappu),” the Sena leader said in an apparent dig at the BJP which had secured a massive mandate in 2014 polls.

Sena, the oldest constituent of the NDA, shares a “blow hot-blow cold” relationship with its senior ally, the BJP, in the Centre and Maharashtra. The Uddhav Thackeray-led party has been attacking Prime Minister Narendra Modi regularly and has often taken potshots at the BJP through editorials in the party mouthpiece Saamana.

Raut’s comments came a day after the schedule for Gujarat elections was announced. Though the Shiv Sena lacks any base in Gujarat, the home state of Modi, the party had extended its support to Patidar leader Hardik Patel who had met Uddhav Thackeray at the latter’s residence in Mumbai earlier this year.

“The Modi wave was there in 2014 Lok Sabha elections but now it seems to have faded away. The way people are marching on roads of Gujarat after GST was introduced, it seems they (BJP) are going to face a challenge,” Raut added.

In 2015, Shiv Sena had said that even 100 Rahul Gandhis cannot match Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s “mega wave” and had mocked the Congress vice president for his ‘suit-boot ki sarkar’ jibe.

–PTI

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