Is Sanjay Raut working for BJP-Thackeray truce by splitting Maharashtra’s ruling ‘ED’?

MUMBAI: Sanjay Raut may have kept both loyalists and detractors guessing about his next move in the wake of his release on bail in an ED case, say sources in the Shiv Sena (UBT). They suggest that the MP may be trying to bring about a shift in political equations by opening new channels of dialogue with rival parties.
Raut created a buzz at a press conference held in Mumbai soon after his release by the special PMLA court, saying he would call on Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Union home minister Amit Shah and Deputy CM Devendra Fadnavis.
He had a pat on the back for Fadnavis, one-half of the Eknath-Devendra — often cheekily called ‘ED’ — combination that is running the state after Eknath Shinde’s rebellion in the Shiv Sena. He said Fadnavis had been taking “some good decisions”. This is in stark contrast with Uddhav Thackeray’s bitter criticism of both Fadnavis and chief minister Eknath Shinde in the wake of the July rebellion in the Shiv Sena and the end of the MVA regime.
“It is clear as daylight that the Enforcement Directorate packed Rautji off to jail at the behest of the Centre. Why should he be eager to call on Modi, Shah and Fadnavis? Why should he go soft on Fadnavis? It appears that Rautji is keen on a patch-up with the BJP in order to save his skin in the money-laundering case,” said a Sena veteran.
The Shiv Sena (UBT) leader pooh-poohed Raut’s claim that he would apprise the PM and Shah on the hardships he faced during his 100-day long imprisonment. “Every PM and every Union home minister is aware of the conditions prevailing in Indian jails. They don’t need a fresh briefing on the matter.”
Political experts said Raut could well be working for a BJP-Thackeray truce to upset Shinde’s apple cart and salvage the prospects of the Sena (UBT) ahead of the 2024 general elections. “Raut’s praise of Fadnavis may have left Matoshree huffing and puffing, but Thackeray may eventually make use of Raut’s negotiating skills to bridge the BJP-Sena (UBT) gulf and thus neutralise Eknath Shinde before the next assembly elections,” said a political commentator.
The commentator said Raut’s overtures to Fadnavis may not be to the liking of the Congress and NCP, though.
Fadnavis too has dropped hints that he is willing to accept an olive branch from Raut, if not from Thackeray. Fadnavis said political enmity needs to be eradicated from the soil of Maharashtra.
Many in the Sena think Raut, should be assigned his earlier role — the irrepressible pamphleteer-cum-spokesperson who can tear into both the BJP and the Shinde camp, revive the Sena (UBT) combative spirit and consolidate the party vote bank across the Mumbai Metropolitan Region (MMR), which is gearing up for civic elections. In short, help Thackeray navigate the battered party ship through troubled waters.
“Rautsaheb’s pen is acerbic and his soundbites, interesting. Uddhavji must make good use of his talent,” the party veteran said. Hoardings depicting Raut as the Sena (UBT) tiger ‘ready to roar’ have been put up in several parts of the city. The key question is whether Raut wants to risk earning the wrath of the BJP.
Friends have advised Raut to keep a low profile for now, refrain from commenting on the ED, the money-laundering case, the special PMLA court judgement and the BJP.

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