That the BJP and ally Shiv Sena are engaged in a battle of nerves in Maharashtra became apparent on Sunday when BJP chief Amit Shah formally sounded the bugle for the assembly polls but skipped mentioning the Uddhav Thackeray-led party in his speech, though he talked about the NDA winning a three-fourth majority.
Addressing a rally here, Shah gave clear indications that the BJP would raise removal of special status of Jammu and Kashmir under Article 370 at the hustings.
Maharashtra will go to polls on October 21 in a single phase. Counting of votes will be taken up on October 24.
"I am happy that the campaign for the state polls is beginning with the discussion on our decision to remove Articles 370 and 35(A)," Shah told the rally on Article 370 held in suburban Goregaon where he launched the poll campaign.
However, Shah not mentioning the Sena in his speech and later keeping his meetings with BJP workers restricted to poll strategies, fuelled speculations.
"Polls for Maharashtra and Haryana have been announced. I am sure the BJP will win with a majority. In Maharashtra, the NDA (BJP, Sena and smaller allies) will have a three-fourth majority (in the 288-member House)," he said, avoiding mention of the Sena.
His statement comes at a time when the BJP and the Sena are trying to finalise a seat-sharing deal for the crucial elections.
When contacted, a senior BJP leader said no meeting was planned between Shah and Uddhav Thackeray on Sunday.
Notably, Shah had spent more than three hours at Thackeray's residence "Matoshree" here in February this year to seal an alliance for the Lok Sabha elections.
However, since the BJP won a massive mandate in Lok Sabha elections, no leader of the party, including Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis, has visited Thackeray's residence.
At the rally, the Union Home Minister said the Pakistan-Occupied Kashmir (PoK) would not have come into existence had Jawaharlal Nehru not declared untimely ceasefire with the neighbouring country.
He also said Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, the country's first home minister, should have handled the issue, instead of the then prime minister.
Shah also added that Fadnavis would continue to hold the coveted post after elections, a statement that might not go down well with the Sena which is projecting Uddhav's son Aaditya Thackeray as its nominee for the coveted post in the event of the NDA returning to power.
"The Fadnavis government worked along side Narendra Modi government at the Centre. The Modi government got a second term and I am clear voters have made up their minds to give Fadnavis another term," Shah said.
That the BJP is in no mood to bend backwards to Sena's tactics became evident more than once in the past. Addressing a rally in Nashik on Thursday, Prime Minister Narendra Modi took a veiled dig at the Uddhav Thackeray-led party.
In his speech, Modi had asked "some loudmouths" to refrain from making statements on the issue of construction of Ram temple which is pending before the supreme court. Thackeray had raked up the issue of Ram temple in presence of Modi when he was in Mumbai a few days back for an event to launch metro lines.
As part of a strategy to better its 2014 poll tally of 122 seats in Maharashtra, the BJP has been inducting leaders from opposition Congress and the NCP, to expand its base.
The Sena, which has lost its big brother or the party with the maximum reach status to the BJP after 2014 elections, has been trying to win more number of seats by welcoming turncoats from other parties in its fold, so that it could be in a better bargaining position in a BJP-led government of future.
In 2014, the Sena had won 63 seats out of the total 288 seats.