Amid growing murmurs of the Shiv Sena eyeing a patch-up with the BJP, a senior member of the party that leads the Maharashtra alliance in power today played down the alleged fissures between his organisation and the Congress-NCP. MP Arvind Sawant also denied any move towards a reconciliation with the BJP.
The comments from the Parliamentarian from Sindhudurg have come at a time when at least one Shiv Sena MLA has sought a return of his party's alliance with the BJP. Another MP, Sanjay Raut, recently called Prime Minister Narendra Modi India's top leader, setting of speculation.
"I, too, have certain friends in the BJP. Political rivalry and ideology are different. Relations continue. We don't treat opposition as enemies," Mr Sawant, however, told NDTV, brushing aside rumours.
"You must be observing what is happening. I don't think you can say they are coming closer. Every day they are criticising vehemently. And below the belt," he said, rubbishing all talk of a reunion of the BJP and the Sena.
The former allies are now in opposite camps ever since the Sena joined hands with the Congress and the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) in 2019 to form the Maharashtra Vikas Aghadi (MVA) government in the state.
A few days ago, BJP and Shiv Sena workers even clashed in Mumbai over allegations of a scam in the land deals related to the Ram temple in Ayodhya. One leader, Sanjay Raut, said the Sena was treated like a slave by the BJP during their years of alliance.
"Uddhav Thackeray…said we are not slaves. We are independent. Hindutva is there in our heart. It is not your (BJP's) patent," Mr Sawant said.
Pratap Sarnaik, the Sena MLA who recently asked Mr Thackeray to revive the old alliance, alleged that Central agencies have been harassing his party's leaders even since their alliance went kaput. He said reunion was the only way to avoid all the "trouble".
Mr Sawant, too, referred to the matter today.
"IT and ED are harassing. Sometimes the CBI is harassing. Remedy is to form an alliance with BJP to close down case. Is it the right way to work? It means the ruling party is blackmailing," he said.
"The same happened in Bengal. Two people who joined the BJP were left out of Narada scam case. Verify why people are joining the BJP," he said.
The Sindhudurg MP also expressed confidence that the MVA would complete its term, saying the coalition partners were "masters of ruling" and with "much more experience".
Referring to disputes among the allies, he said such difference were seen between the Congress and NCP, too.
"But they ruled for 15 years. We, too, know how to rule the state," he said.
Asked about Maharashtra Congress chief Nana Patole's recent comments that the MVA was not a permanent fixture and the party would go solo in the next Assembly polls, Mr Sawant shot back: "So what?"
"What do they mean by going solo or going alone or whatever?" he asked.
Reacting to Mr Patole's statements, Chief Minister Thackeray had said that all political parties should keep ambitions aside and focus on the state's economy and health.