Shinde-Ambedkar 'chai pe charcha' fuels speculation

Solapur (Maharashtra): An impromptu meeting between Congress candidate Sushilkumar Shinde and VBA-AIMIM leader Prakash Ambedkar at a hotel here on Saturday morning sparked a hot political speculation.

Both of them -- staunch rivals in the campaign field -- were seen exchanging pleasantries, eating breakfast and sipping tea for a short while, at Hotel Sarovar.

Ambedkar was accompanied by local leaders Anand Chandanshive and Bala Waghmare, while Shinde had gone to the hotel to meet former Speaker Shivraj Patil.

Upon seeing Ambedkar and others, Shinde warmly greeted them and wished Ambedkar the best in the elections, which was reciprocated in equal measure.

A picture of this chance encounter went viral on the social media prompting the VBA leaders and the Congress leaders resort to dousing the flames of speculation in political circles and social media.

"It happened on the spur of the moment... Nothing was planned and the two leaders exchanged courtesies normal among political rivals," a Congress leader told IANS.

"They are not political enemies, merely opponents, so what's wrong if they sat and enjoy a cup of tea... It's our old Indian tradition and there was nothing more to the meeting. Our political fight against the BJP is very serious," VBA-AIMIM alliance Vice-President Vijay More told IANS.

Later, the VBA-AIMIM also sent out official messages on the social media saying "the meeting between Ambedkar-Shinde was sudden, Bhim Sainiks should not get wrong ideas about it."

In what will be the first major experiment of Dalit-Muslim unity in the state, Ambedkar is contesting in Akola and from Solapur, where he is locking horns in a triangular fight against Shinde and BJP's Mahaswami Jaisiddheshwar Shivacharya.

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