Saying that the Congress is not providing effective oppostiion to the BJP, Shiv Sena mouthpiece 'Saamana' on Saturday said all anti-BJP parties including the Sena should come together under the banner of the United Progressive Alliance (UPA).
Time has come for expanding the UPA, Sena's chief spokesperson Sanjay Raut told reporters later in the day.
The Congress in Maharashtra, which is part of the Sena-led ruling alliance, however, said the Uddhav Thackeray- led party is not part of the UPA and hence should not comment on it. "Farmers are protesting on the national capital borders. But the rulers in Delhi are completely indifferent to this agitation. Disintegrated and feeble opposition party is the main reason behind the government's indifference. Ineffective opposition is leading to this disintegration of democracy," the Saamana said in the editorial.
"Instead of blaming the government, the opposition party should introspect. There has to be a mass appeal to the opposition leadership. But on this front, that party is standing on the brink," it said.
"Rahul Gandhi individually is putting up a strong fight, but something is lacking...The present condition of the Congress-led UPA is like an NG0. Even the UPA constituents do not seem to have taken the farmers' protest seriously," the Marathi daily said.
"NCP chief Sharad Pawar is an independent personality at the national level. In West Bengal, Mamata Banerjee is waging a lonely battle. The country's opposition party should stand by her at this time. Mamata Banerjee has contacted only Pawar and he is going to Bengal. But this should have been done under the leadership of the Congress," it said.
Trinamool Congress, Shiv Sena, Akali Dal, Bahujan Samaj Party, Samajwadi Party, YSR Congress, Telangana Rashtra Samithi, Janata Dal (Secular), Biju Janata Dal are against the BJP, and they should join the UPA to provide a formidable alternative, the newspaper said.
"Priyanka Gandhi Vadra was arrested in Delhi (during a protest march over farm laws); Rahul Gandhi was publicly ridiculed by the BJP; the Thackeray government in Maharashtra is not allowed to function; BJP leaders are on record saying that the prime minister was instrumental in toppling the Kamal Nath government in Madhya Pradesh. All this is not good for democracy," it said. The BJP has a powerful leadership in the form of Narendra Modi and Amit Shah while "the UPA has none," it said.
Speaking to reporters later, Raut, executive editor of Saamana, said the UPA needs to expand to take on the "dictatorial" Union government.
Asked who should lead the UPA, Raut said cryptically, "Sonia Gandhi led the UPA very ably all these years. Now the time has come to widen the UPA's scope". On speculation that NCP chief Sharad Pawar could replace Sonia Gandhi as UPA head, Raut said besides Sonia Gandhi,Pawar has support from a cross-section of society.
"All opposition parties should come together against the dictatorial attitude of the Central government. A weak opposition is bad for democracy," the Rajya Sabha MP said.
Reacting to the Saamana editorial, state Congress leader Naseem Khan said parties which have faith in the leadership of Sonia Gandhi and which are against the BJP's ideology are welcome to join the UPA.
Khan, however, said he disagreed with the newspaper's view that opposition parties haven not taken the protests against the farm laws seriously. "Right from day one,the Congress party and Rahul Gandhi have supported farmers' demand of repealing the new laws and stood by them," he said. "Shiv Sena is not part of the UPA. So it should not comment on the UPA," he added.