Despite cold vibes from the Shiv Sena, which had publicly announced to go solo in elections, BJP chief Amit Shah Wednesday said the Uddhav Thackeray-led party would continue its alliance with BJP for the 2019 Lok Sabha polls.
Speaking at the Republic Summit here, Shah also indicated that the BJP would gain more partners ahead of 2019 polls than it had before 2014 elections.
"Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis is frequently in touch with the Shiv Sena leadership at the state level. The Shiv Sena is already a part of the Central and state governments and it would continue its alliance with the BJP ahead of the 2019 Lok Sabha elections", he said.
The Sena, which is the oldest constituent of the NDA, had contested the 2014 Lok Sabha polls in alliance with the BJP, but severed the ties ahead of the Maharashtra assembly elections held in October that year.
The Sena later joined the BJP-led governments in Maharashtra and Centre, though grudgingly, as it was averse to play second fiddle to BJP, which emerged as the single largest party in the polls.
Interestingly, Sena Tuesday stayed away from the inauguration of various infra projects by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in Mumbai metropolitan region and Pune claiming that Thackeray was not invited to the programmes.
Shah also sought to play down the Sena fielding its nominees against the BJP in assembly elections held in various states including Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh.
"They (Sena) have been fielding their candidates in those states even before we came to power. It is their local issue", he said.
Commenting on a tweet by Chirag Paswan of the Lok Janshakti Party on differences between the NDA ally and the BJP over seat allotment, Shah said, "Every party wants to grow. They pitch for their leader. Such things are common ahead of every elections".
Chirag had tweeted that the NDA was at a crossroads after the Telugu Desam Party and RLSP quit the alliance. "At this juncture and with time still at hand, it is important for the BJP to respect and allay the concerns of the remaining allies," he had said.
Shah said the BJP had 25 allies before the 2014 Lok Sabha polls.
"Today, we have 31 partners among which six are bigger ones. We are still in talks with some more parties. In the North-East region, we have joined hands with several local non-Congress parties", he said.
He described BJP as NDA's nucleus.
"We are going ahead for 2019 (polls) as NDA and not only as BJP. BJP will be the nucleus of NDA and Narendra Modi will be the leader of this alliance," he said.
Thackeray had earlier this year announced that his party would contest future elections on its own.
Thackeray has also taken up the agenda of construction of Ram temple on the disputed site in Ayodhya and had visited the temple town last month.
In 2014 polls, the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance had won 42 out of the 48 seats in Maharashtra, with BJP winning 23 seats and Sena 18.
The Raju Shetti-led Swabhimani Paksha, which was an NDA ally, had won a seat. Shetti left the NDA in 2017 citing dissatisfaction with the Modi government over handling of agrarian issues.