The Sena-BJP ties are not getting any stronger. A day after the Shiv Sena threatened to call off its 22-year-old alliance with the BJP, both the partners remained adamant on contesting the Chimur assembly byelection.
In Nagpur, BJP state president Nitin Gadkari said he would not budge from his decision to contest Chimur. "The Sena can choose to break the alliance if they want to," he said.
When the day began, things did not look too well for the alliance. An angry Gadkari refused to talk to the media and left for Nagpur early in the morning. Senior party leader Gopinath Munde, who asked the Sena to rethink its stand, decided to travel to Beed.
But by evening, the BJP seemed to have mellowed down following a statement by LK Advani in Bhopal. "Such trivial issues will not affect the relationship between the two parties," Advani had said.
"We do not want the alliance to break when Maharashtra is the target of terrorist attacks and farmers are committing suicides. The state needs a strong Opposition," insisted party spokesman Vinod Tawde.
Senior BJP leader Gopinath Munde said he had sought an appointment with Sena chief Bal Thackeray, asking him to explain his party's stand. The meeting is likely to happen in a day or two.
If Gadkari is to be believed, the Sena has gone back on its words. "Just 10 or 12 days back, Uddhav asked me to give the Shiv Sena another seat in place of Chimur," he said, adding that it was Sena that proposed Chimur for the BJP.
Senior Sena leader Manhoar Joshi criticised the BJP for not adhering to coalition ethics and claiming the Chimur seat from the Sena. "The Sena is not going to give up its claim on Chimur and it is the BJP who has to decided whether they would like to continue alliance or not," he insisted.
In New Delhi, central BJP leaders are hoping that Thackeray will not pull out - at least not now when the party is still to get over the crisis caused by the rebellion of both Narayan Rane and Raj Thackeray.
Second, they do not see any reason why they should push the panic button or give up their case for Chimur. Rather, they expect the Thackerays to end their posturing and come around for settlement.
Third, they see the problem over the seat as a reflection more of the complications with the Sena caused by Uddhav Thackeray's style of functioning and a group of leaders close to him. The BJP has to grow when the Sena is crumbling, they say.
The BJP leaders maintained that Uddhav Thackeray and BJP leader Nitin Gadkari had clinched the deal when they met at a function over four days ago.
The BJP would contest Chimur and the Sena would put up a nominee for the Daryapur seat in Amravati district, which had fallen vacant following resignation of another Shiv Sena legislator after he joined the Congress.
Earlier, Sena executive president Uddhav Thackeray met party leaders at Matoshree, the Thackeray residence in Bandra.