'Still Friends,' Say BJP and Shiv Sena, Hinting At Reunion

New Delhi, Oct 19: As results are being counted for Maharashtra, the BJP and Shiv Sena, recently estranged, are returning to niceties. The BJP will win more seats in the state than any other party (about 120 according to early results), but an outright majority appears out of reach. The Shiv Sena is in second place (with about 44 seats). Given that the BJP will form the government, its top leaders said, the Sena should hitch a ride.

Terms of the reconciliation could include the post of Deputy Chief Minister for the Sena, said sources.

"The Sena must respect the result and come forward on their own. We will treat them fairly," said Vinay Sahasrabuddhe, a key strategist for the BJP in Maharashtra. "The Shiv Sena is not our opponent... they will always be our friends," said Devendra Fadnavis, the head of the BJP in Maharashtra. 

Sena spokespersons appearing on a tv channel said party chief Uddhav Thackeray would make a call "in Maharashtra's best interest." 

The 25-year-old alliance came undone because the BJP insisted that its spectacular showing in the national election meant that it would not accept to be the junior partner in Maharashtra. Mr Thackeray pushed back. In September, the parties split, despite clear signs that after 15 years of co-governance by the Congress and Sharad Pawar's NCP, Maharashtra would seek a change.

Though BJP sources said some leaders have reached out to Mr Pawar's party, the pairing is highly unlikely, and on record, representatives of both sides denied talks.  

After the split with the BJP in September, Mr Thackeray went on the offensive with a voluminous assortment of acerbic remarks about his former partner, but did not pull his party's minister from the union government, signaling that the break-up was not irreversible.  

After exit polls earlier this week showed the BJP performing strongly, the Sena dialed down its onslaught considerably, and said it was "broken-hearted."

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