The credit for the BJP's political growth in Maharashtra goes to late Bal Thackeray and the Shiv Sena, party MP Sanjay Raut said on Saturday.
Speaking to reporters after paying tributes to the Sena founder on the occasion of his 95th birth anniversary at his memorial in Shivaji Park in central Mumbai, Mr Raut said the BJP would not have been able to expand its base in rural areas of Maharashtra if Sena had not aligned with that party.
"The credit for the rise of today's BJP goes to Balasaheb. If Shiv Sena takes a different political stand in the interest of the country and Maharashtra, that doesn't mean the party has deviated from his (Bal Thackeray''s) ideology," Mr Raut said, in a veiled swipe at the BJP.
The Shiv Sena used to be one of the oldest allies of the BJP in the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) before it walked out of the fold in 2019 while accusing its former ally of not honouring a pre-poll promise in Maharashtra.
In Maharashtra, the Shiv Sena-BJP government had first come to power in 1995.
Both the parties again shared power, though with changed equations, from 2014 to 2019 with Devendra Fadnavis of the BJP being at the helm, before they fell out after the 2019 Assembly polls on the issue of sharing the post of chief minister.
Since then, the BJP has been accusing the Sena, which shares power with ideologically incompatible NCP and Congress in the state, of diluting Bal Thackeray's ideology of Hindutva for the sake of power.
"Every party needs to take a political stand in the interest of that particular state, the country and its people. What is important is staying that course and succedding...and the Shiv Sena has done that," he said.
Mr Raut, also the chief spokesperson of the Sena, said Bal Thackeray would have been happy with the way the Sena and the Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) are working in the state.
"Uddhav Thackeray is a popular chief minister in India.... Balasaheb would have been happy," he added.
Mr Raut said that Bal Thackeray's "ideology" was that all parties should go beyond politics and come together in the interest of the state
Several Sena leaders, including film actor Urmila Matondkar who joined the Uddhav Thackeray-led party recently, paid their tributes.