A day after Prime Minister Narendra Modi-led BJP scored an oversized victory, the Shiv Sena, which has played the role of the party's in-house critic over the years, called its ally "big brother" in national politics. The BJP-Shiv Sena partnership for the recently-concluded Lok Sabha polls was achieved after much cajoling from the BJP top brass. The result has been pleasing for the two parties. The alliance reached its 2014 tally of 41 out of the 48 seats in Maharashtra - the Sena's share is a meaty 18.
"We have always given the status of big brother to the BJP in national politics. There is no leader left who can outmatch him (PM Modi). And I don't see any leader like him in the next 25 years," Mr Raut told news agency ANI.
The Shiv Sena and the BJP had contested the 2014 Lok Sabha polls together and won it in Maharashtra hands down. Rift began emerging soon after. The two parties fought over seat sharing before assembly polls and even called off the alliance. After a split verdict, the BJP and the Sena, bound by common ideology, came together and formed the government in the state.
The two parties also contested separately in the civic elections in February 2017. But the BJP had got the better of the Sena in the contest, in which the big prize was the control of the country's richest municipality, the Brihanmumbai Corporation.
After the local polls, the Sena intensified its attack on its alliance partner of 25 years, playing the in-house opposition within the NDA at every opportunity. It had even repeatedly praised Congress chief Rahul Gandhi and rebuked the BJP for targeting him on every occasion.
In January, Mr Raut had said, "We were the big brother in Maharashtra. We are the big brother and will stay as the big brother."
When the BJP sought to mollify its estranged partner, the Shiv Sena played hardball. Finally, it took an intervention from Mr Shah that sealed the alliance.
Mr Raut on Friday explained his party's acrimony that no longer exists.
"Our fights were not personal. There was only ideological war in the last four years. But we were together for 25 years. When we think there is no leader like Modiji who can take the country forward, we decided to support BJP once again. Our decision was right," he said.
PM Modi has led his party, the BJP, to 303 seats - improving upon their performance in 2014, a feat not accomplished in Indian politics in 48 years. The Congress was reduced to a paltry 52.
With inputs from ANI