Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray today scotched speculation about his party's possible alliance with the BJP with a witty repartee. Asked about the matter, he told journalists, "I am still sitting with Ajit Pawar and Balasaheb Thorat. I am not going anywhere". Later, he jocularly added, "Yes, after I am done speaking with you, I will be going to meet the BJP".
His remark appeared to put out of court party MP Sanjay Raut's comparison of the BJP-Shiv Sena relationship to Aamir Khan and Kiran Rao, who recently announced their divorce but said their relationship had "changed".
"We are not India-Pakistan. Look at Aamir Khan and Kiran Rao, it is like them. Our (Shiv Sena, BJP) political ways are different but the friendship will remain intact," the Shiv Sena MP and spokesperson told news agency ANI.
Mr Thackeray's assertion came days after the BJP's Devendra Fadnavis declared the Shiv Sena was "never" an "enemy". Asked whether there is a possibility of the two former allies coming together, Mr Fadnavis said "there are no ifs and buts in politics" and an "appropriate decision" will be taken in view of the situation.
The statements of Sena and BJP leaders -- amid tension in the ruling alliance -- have kept alive speculation about a possible rapprochement that was triggered by a one-on-one meeting between Mr Thackeray and Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
Mr Raut had followed it up lauding PM Modi as the "top leader of the country" and said he shared "old ties" with Mr Thackeray. But in an interview with NDTV, he also said their conversation "should not lead to speculation that BJP will join hands with the Sena for a government".
Talking to the media after the two-day monsoon session of the state assembly ended, the Chief Minister said the BJP's behaviour during the session was against democracy.
Yesterday, the Maharashtra assembly suspended 12 MLAs of the BJP for a year for abusing and manhandling the Speaker-in-chair as the assembly session started. Leader of the Opposition Devendra Fadnavis, who was allegedly present during the ruckus which took place in a cabin, insisted that these are "false allegations".
Under the leadership Mr Fadnavis, the BJP legislators held a mock assembly session on the steps of the Vidhan Bhavan on Tuesday as a mark of protest against the suspension.
Both the NCP and the Shiv Sena say central agencies like the Enforcement Directorate and Central Bureau of Investigation are being used to put pressure on their MLAs and ministers in an attempt to destabilize the government.
While both Deputy Chief Minister Ajit Pawar and former Home Minister Anil Deshmukh are facing money-laundering investigations, Sena MLA Pratap Sarnaik told NDTV yesterday that he has been targeted by central agencies.
In a letter, which he defended, Mr. Sarnaik had advised the Chief Minister to "patch up" with the BJP to stop agencies from targeting Sena leaders.