NEW DELHI: They are invoking characters from Bollywood’s epic film Sholay to hurl accusations at each other. Relations between the ruling allies in Maharashtra have dipped to low levels with the Shiv Sena now playing the role of a bitter and angry opposition at both the state and the centre.

The Shiv Sena and the BJP had a fairly comfortable relationship till the Lok Sabha elections in 2014 where the alliance won 40 of the 48 seats. It broke and mended, with senior Shiv Sena leaders now privately blaming Nationalist Congress party leader Sharad Pawar for dividing the two parties. If this is to be believed then Pawar, known to be a master manipulator, has succeeded in instigating Uddhav Thackeray to oppose the BJP tooth and nail.

Shiv Sena leader Sanjay Raut referred to the BJP as “Nizam” at a function in Aurangabad recently. To this BJP spokesperson Madhav Bhandari dared it to take ‘talaq’. Raut addressing a Sena rally had slammed PM Modi for not visiting drought affected Marathwada region. "The PM had all the time to campaign in West Bengal and Tamil Nadu. He addressed 35 poll meetings in West Bengal and 40 in Tamil Nadu. However, the PM couldn’t find time to tour Marathwada where farmers are dying because of acute water shortage," Raut said.

Maharashtra BJP chief Raosaheb Danve responded to the attack, saying his party would give an "appropriate reply" to the Sena. For the BJP Uddhav Thackeray is the “'Angrez ke zamaane ka jailor” (a tailor from the British era) from the film Sholay. The reference was to the character played by comedian Asrani, with the buffoonery charge inherent in the comparison riling the Shiv Sena.

The Sena retaliated by comparing BJP president Amit Shah, with whom it has no love lost, to Gabbar Singh insisting that his politics would meet a definitive end. Sena corporator Kishori Pednekar said, "Shah is running his party like Gabbar, and you know what happens to Gabbar at the end of the movie."

Warming to the Bollywood theme Pednekar did not spare Bhandari either. She said the BJP spokesperson was like a ‘lunatic’ character played by Rajpal Yadav in ‘Hulchal’. "In that movie, Rajpal is subject to episodic attacks of lunacy. “It seems Bhandari is like this mad character," the corporator said.

Insults are part of the BJP-Shiv Sena alliance now. Earlier the BJP would quietly listen to Sena insults against PM Modi, Amit Shah and state Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis. It would use names of sultans and emperors freely to describe its BJP opponents. But clearly patience has worn thin and the BJP has started reacting, albeit on the Sholay theme. And this seems to have drawn blood, in that the Sena has cautioned its ally in government to watch its words against Uddhav Thackeray.

On the social media, the creativity of both has gone into the animal world with lions, tigers, frogs, snakes being freely invoked to settle political scores.The ShivSena MP and executive editor of the Sena mouthpiece "Saamana" Sanjay Raut, who has slammed the BJP leadership time and again in his articles, also found himself targeted by Bhandari.An angry Raut said the BJP may well find solace in its tacit friendship with the NCP and rule the government."Some people in the BJP are making frivolous statements. The CM (Fadnavis) must clarify if Bhandari’s views are official because such views cannot be taken as his (spokesperson’s) personal opinion," he said.

"Policies (of the Sena) can be criticised, but when persons (in the BJP) criticise the Sena chief they can definitely be called morons. Perhaps such people want their government and the state of Maharashtra to face trouble. The Shiv Sena has taken this issue very seriously," he said.

Raut has asked the BJP to keep in mind that the government was running on Sena’s support. "You are free to run your government with the support of Chhagan Bhujbal, Sunil Tatkare and Ajit Pawar," he said.

"The Sena has crossed all limits of civility. Our message to them is loud and clear. If they ask us to buzz off then we too tell them to go their way," a senior BJP leader said.

The Sena’s Aurangabad MP Chandrakant Khaire even dragged BJP MP Kirit Somaiya into the controversy and asked whether anyone remembered his party ever referring to Somaiya as ‘Shakti Kapoor’.

During the Maharashtra Assembly election meetings,Uddhav Thackeray likened the ongoing poll campaign by Prime Minister Narendra Modi's Cabinet to an assault by Bijapur general Afzal Khan's army on Shivaji's dominion in the 17th century.

"What are they up to? First Modi comes to campaign, then his entire Cabinet team is campaigning for votes in Maharashtra. They are like the army of Afzal Khan trying to conquer this state," Uddhav thundered at a huge public rally in the temple of town of Tulzapur.

He noted out that besides Modi, the home minister, external affairs minister, chief ministers and other top leaders were campaigning for the Maharashtra Assembly elections scheduled for October 15.

The Sena chief alleged that their whole intention is "to break the state into pieces" in the name of bringing progress and development here."But, the people of Maharashtra will not tolerate such attempts. They (team Modi) will be made to bite the dust," he asserted. He pointed out that Afzal Khan too met a similar fate when he tried to break up the Maratha empire of Chhatrapati Shivaji.

"Do you want Maharashtra to be divided into many pieces? Then vote for BJP. Do you?" he asked the gathering, which roared back "No, No."

Modi, during his campaign trail, is noted for his interactive connect with the crowds by asking similar questions and eliciting their responses.

Amit Shah has compared the Shiv Sena to rats."We made a tiger out of a rat and that tiger is now trying to scare us. But we need to show these rats there right place," Shah had said without naming anyone in an election campaign rally at Sillod in Aurangabad.

While hitting back at BJP chief, Uddhav Thackeray said that foreign attackers always tried to humiliate the people of Maharashtra by comparing them to rats. Thackeray virtually referred to Shah as Afzal Khan when he said that the latter had called Shivaji a ‘rat,’ when he attacked Maharashtra in 17th century. "Someone called us a rat yesterday. Even Khan had come with large number of soldiers. Let me remind that despite all that, Shivaji killed him,"Uddhav Thackeray said at a rally in Bhosri in Pune district.