A major crisis erupted in the saffron alliance in Maharashtra on Sunday, with the BJP calling off seat-sharing talks with ally Shiv Sena - apparently after its chief, Uddhav Thackeray, questioned the much-talked-about 'Modi wave' in an interview to a TV channel.
State Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) president Devendra Fadanvis, while talking to Hindustan Times, confirmed the development.
"There is huge discontent among our rank and file over the statements made by the Sena leadership against our leader, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, in a television programme on Saturday.
"This has reached our higher-ups. Now, we have decided that we will not make any effort anymore to talk to them on seat-sharing," Fadanvis said, adding it was up to the Sena to make the next move.
The BJP's tough stand is the latest chapter in an episode of unease with the Shiv Sena ahead of the Maharashtra assembly elections slated for October 15 and casts doubts on the future of the alliance which seemed frontrunner in the polls following its spectacular showing in the April-May Lok Sabha elections.
The BJP and its allies, including the Shiv Sena won 42 of the 48 seats in the state in the general elections.
But, differences cropped up in the coalition over seat-sharing talks in the 25-year-old alliance. The Shiv Sena wants to stick to the 2009 formula - when it fought 169 seats and the BJP 119 of the 288 assembly seats in the state. But, this time the BJP wants more.
Shiv Sena president Uddhav Thackeray had said on Saturday his party would get the top job in the state, making his ambitions for the chief minister's post clear.
The Shiv Sena had also issued a veiled warning against the coalition partner, saying "excessive lust" for seats will not do it any good.
Talking to TV channel Aaj Tak on Saturday, Uddhav had also questioned the so-called Modi wave, which the BJP claims was instrumental behind the National Democratic Alliance's landslide victory in the general elections.
"Was the Modi wave felt in Tamil Nadu, Punjab, Odisha and West Bengal? It depends on alliance partners as well. Modi is Prime Minister of our alliance."
According to BJP sources, Fadnavis got a call from Delhi and was told to officially declare that the talks between the two parties cannot continue if the Sena uses such tactics and makes such statements against the BJP.
"Such statements are undesirable prior to the election and everyone should refrain from making such utterances," BJP's Maharashtra in-charge, Rajiv Pratap Rudy, said on Sunday, adding the CM post issue should be discussed after elections.
On the seat-sharing talks, Rudy said, "The proposal is whatever seats are left - after smaller parties in the alliance get their due - the BJP and Shiv Sena will divide them equally."
According to Rudy, the BJP and Shiv Sena will be left with around 270 seats after smaller parties are allotted around 18 seats. "In this case we are expecting for somewhere around 135 seats."
Parties such as the Swabhimani Shetkari Sanghatana, RPI, Rashtriya Samaj Party and the Shiv Sangram have joined hands with the BJP-Shiv Sena alliance to contest polls.
The Shiv Sena did not officially react to the BJP move to call off the talks. A party leader, on condition of anonymity, said that the problems would be sorted out only if Uddhav and BJP president Amit Shah discussed the issue.
Shah will be in Mumbai on September 17 for a BJP programme, and the Sena is hoping that the two leaders will meet to finalise the seats.
But now BJP leaders are skeptical. "With this development, the only way that this meeting can happen is that the Sena leadership goes more than halfway and meets him in Delhi," a senior BJP leader said.
The last date for nomination filing is September 27.
(With inputs from our Pune correspondent Yogesh Joshi)