"The country needs a reliable face. Can you find one face who fits? Can you see one? Since we cannot see a clear face, let us elect a strong government," Shiv Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray said at a programme organised by Assocham.
Later, when asked by reporters who would be the face of NDA in the elections, Thackeray said, "We have a lot of credible people. Have some patience. We will definitely show you the face."
The Sena chief's apparent disinclination to back Modi assumes significance considering that BJP has virtually decided to project him as its Prime Ministerial nominee for the Lok Sabha elections slated for next year.
He later had an hour-long meeting with senior BJP leader L K Advani, who had last month revolted against Modi's nomination as BJP's Election Campaign Committee chief.
Shiv Sena has been having reservations to projection of Modi, apparently because of his proximity to Uddhav's estranged cousin and Maharashtra Navnirman Sena chief Raj Thackeray.
In his address at the function, Thackeray said, "First bring in a strong government if you want a manifesto for development."
Targeting the UPA, he said it is difficult to make out who is running the country - the government or the media or NGOs or some other entity.
He said he does not want to single out Prime Minister Manmohan Singh for the sorry state of affairs in the government which he described as "corrupt".
"This government is working like a mobile pre-paid connection. You pay and then talk. But a person told me that whenever you call, you are told the mobile is out of network. We have to put an end to this. And then ensure everybody is in our network," the Sena chief said.
He claimed, with his hand on his heart, that the "next government will be formed by us (NDA) and we will definitely be many times better than the present government".