The growing proximity between Shiv Sena MP Sanjay Raut and Congress MP Rahul Gandhi has surprised not only the traditional Congress leaders but also Shiv Sena’s erstwhile ally BJP. Both Sena and Congress are keen to further consolidate their ties not just for the Assembly and Lok Sabha elections but also for the forthcoming Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) elections. Despite BJP’s Mission 2022 and resentment from Mumbaikars on a couple of issues, Shiv Sena is hopeful of retaining power in BMC and for that it needs Congress and NCP by its sides to lure non-Marathi speaking voters. Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray and Congress interim president Sonia Gandhi have been regularly interacting over phone but Raut has directly opened channels with Rahul and thereby has sent signal to the Maharashtra Congress leaders to fall in line and stop ”going solo” talk. Raut who was part of the core team that saw the formation of Maha Vikas Aghadi gave Rahul a complete run down as to how Sena functions. An impressed Rahul is likely to visit Maharashtra soon and meet up with Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray. Essentially, Sena is sending a message to BJP that even as it hobnobs with Congress it is not moving away from its Hindutva and Marathi Manoos agenda. Political analysts see this high profile meeting as optics and say nothing concrete will emerge until NCP supremo Sharad Pawar takes a lead.