BJP's Amit Shah Places Call to Shiv Sena Chief Uddhav Thackeray: Sources

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Shiv Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray at a press conference in Mumbai.

Mumbai:  As the BJP's top leaders meet in Delhi to decide how to form the government in Maharashtra, its former ally, the Shiv Sena, is waiting for a nudge. "They can get in touch if they want," said Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray, adding, "if they want, they can go with the NCP."

Mr Thackeray, 54, was referring to Sharad Pawar's party which openly said it is willing to back a BJP government with external support in Maharashtra. The BJP's top leaders, including Prime Minister Narendra Modi, are meeting now in Delhi to review their options.

The BJP is placed to win 122 seats in Maharasthra; it needs another 22 to form the government. The Sena is expected to get 62 seats. 

If contacted with a proposal, said sources in the Sena, the party is willing to accept  the post of Deputy Chief Minister, and is open to negotiations over other key portfolios - new found-flexibility for the party, whose chief Uddhav Thackeray went on the offensive against the BJP after they split in September, ending a 25-year partnership. 

Sources in the BJP say their shared history and ideology makes the Sena "a natural fit".  In contrast, Mr Pawar has been an ally of the BJP's arch rival, the Congress, though that collaboration also ended unhappily ahead of the state election. 

"The Shiv Sena is not our opponent... they will always be our friends," said Devendra Fadnavis, who heads the BJP in Maharashtra, to NDTV.

Sena spokespersons appearing on NDTV said party chief Uddhav Thackeray will decide on his next step "in Maharashtra's best interest."

It was Mr Thackeray's refusal to accord the BJP the status of senior partner that drove their break-up. After its spectacular result in May's national election, the BJP was determined to recalibrate the alliance in Maharashtra.

However, Mr Thackeray has still not pulled the Sena's lone minister in the union government, signaling that the break-up that took place in Maharashtra is not irreversible.

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