Congress President Rahul Gandhi on Friday wished Shiv Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray on his 58th birthday. “Best wishes to Shri Uddhav Thackeray ji, on his birthday, I wish him good health and happiness always,” he tweeted this morning.

The development has led to a fresh round of speculations and rumours amid reports of growing differences between allies BJP and Sena, especially after the latter stayed away from voting in favour of the NDA government in the no-confidence vote brought against the government by the TDP and supported by various opposition parties.

On Rahul wishing Thackeray on birthday, Sena leader Sanjay Raut said, “Uddhavji gets birthday greetings from all over the country and outside. This time, he (Rahul Gandhi) has openly greeted him on Twitter.”

Rahul’s birthday wishes to Thackeray come after the former, in a surprise move, hugged Prime Minister Narendra Modi in Lok Sabha, following his no-holds barred and scathing criticism of BJP government on different issues.

On this, Sena went all praises for the Congress president, with the lead headline of Saamna reading, “Rahul Gandhi Yanchi Modina Jaadu Ki Jappi! Bhaava, Jinklas! (Rahul, You Won!)”.

“The Congress chief has now graduated from the real school of politics. This wasn’t a hug, but a shock to Modi. There would be more “tremors” like today for the BJP,” party leader Sanjay Raut had said.

A Congress source said, “The gesture (birthday greetings) can also be seen as an effort to prove that he can go beyond political rivalry to built personal relations.”

State Congress spokesman Sachin Sawant said, “Rahul Gandhi has greeted the head of another political party. Nothing more should be read into this.”

The Uddhav Thackeray-led Shiv Sena, despite being an ally of the BJP in Maharashtra and at the Centre, has been a vocal critic of Modi, the government and the BJP.

Even on opposition-sponsored no-confidence motion where the Shiv Sena MPs refrained from voting, it was reported a day before that Uddhav Thackeray had promised his party’s support to the government during the trust vote.

Allies since the early 1990s, the BJP and Shiv Sena have been at loggerheads after the 2014 Lok Sabha elections when the parties splintered due to disagreements over seat-sharing.

The Sena supported the saffron party in a post-poll alliance then but has now announced to go it alone in the 2019 general elections, despite attempts by the BJP to convince to contest together.

(With PTI inputs)