Mumbai: The Shiv Sena has decided to stick with the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) for now, ahead of an approaching no-confidence motion against the coalition government at the centre.

The no-trust motion moved by Andhra Pradesh’s opposition YSR Congress Party (YSRCP) has forced the state’s ruling Telugu Desam Party (TDP) to quit NDA and back it, besides eliciting support from a wide spectrum of opposition parties.

Senior Shiv Sena leader and MP Sanjay Raut on Saturday described the no-confidence motion as an “immature step" and added that the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led NDA had “enough numbers to complete its full term of five years in office".

Raut, however, urged the BJP to introspect why allies were leaving the NDA and predicted that the BJP’s Lok Sabha strength will come down by 100-110 seats in the next general elections.

“The bypoll results in Uttar Pradesh have presented a new arithmetic. Two extreme enemies decided to come together against the BJP to avoid division of votes. This is a warning to the BJP that if some political parties come together against it, the results could be way different to what they were in 2014," Raut told reporters.

The Sena leader distanced his party from any effort to cobble together an anti-BJP coalition, and from working under the leadership of the Congress party. “Shiv Sena has never worked under the leadership of Congress party. Yet, a strong opposition party is in the interest of the survival of democracy in the country," he added.

The clarification by the Shiv Sena, the oldest ally of the BJP, comes in the wake of a series of developments that indicate a realignment of forces against the BJP. A day before the BJP’s defeat in the bypolls to Gorakhpur and Phulpur Lok Sabha seats in Uttar Pradesh, former Congress president Sonia Gandhi met leaders of a host of anti-BJP parties for dinner. Speaking at the India Today Conclave in Delhi, Gandhi said the Congress won’t allow the BJP to return to power in 2019.

Later, the TDP pulled out of the NDA and announced it will support YSRCP’s no-confidence motion. In another development, at least two political parties—the Trinamool Congress (TMC) and the Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS)—spoke to each other about forming a non-Congress, non-BJP third front. Post the UP bypolls, the Samajwadi Party and Bahujan Samaj Party, which worked together against the BJP, indicated they intended to continue their alliance.

Last week, Congress president Rahul Gandhi also called on Nationalist Congress Party chief Sharad Pawar in Delhi. The latest indication of an anti-BJP coalition emerging under the leadership of the Congress came at the party’s 84th plenary session, where it adopted a political resolution calling for “a pragmatic approach for cooperation with all like-minded parties" and “a common workable programme" against the BJP in the next elections.

Though the Shiv Sena has rarely spared an opportunity to criticize the Modi government, its decision to stay within the NDA is based on short-term and long-term assessments of the political situation, both Sena and BJP functionaries said.

“There are several factors which still favour the BJP and (Narendra) Modi. Two bypoll results cannot be considered a referendum on Modi if we carry out a deeper assessment of polling and results. Except TDP, the parties that are going against the BJP now have never technically been with Modi. Among these parties too, there have been any number of efforts in the past to form a third front or some sort of coalition against BJP. Nothing has worked out so far, which means there are serious speed-breakers. There is no short-term need for us to join these efforts," said a senior Sena leader who did not wish to be named.

In the long term, he added, the Sena would base its strategy on the political climate that exists closer to the 2019 elections. “For the record, we have declared that we will fight the next elections on our own. In reality, many factors would determine what we do in 2019," he said.

A senior Maharashtra BJP leader said the BJP-Sena bond over “ideological issues like nationalism, Hindutva, and pseudo-secularism" was stronger than is generally conceded. “We don’t yet know about the issues that will come into play in the next elections. If Hindutva and nationalism are issues, will the Sena contest against BJP and divide the Hindu vote? I doubt it," the leader added, requesting anonymity.

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