The next 48 hours are crucial for how things pan out between the Shiv Sena and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).
The PMO has asked the Sena to name the two people to be inducted as ministers in the Union cabinet on Sunday, but the party wants to finalise the power-sharing pact in Maharashtra first.
Senior leaders from both the Sena and the BJP camps said what happens on Saturday could make or break their partnership. On Sunday, Prime Minister Narendra Modi will expand his Cabinet in Delhi while in Mumbai Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray will address party MLAs and make clear his stand on ties with the BJP.
There is no consensus yet between the parties on the power-sharing formula. The talks, which are now taking place between Thackeray and senior BJP leaders in Delhi, are said to be stuck on the issue of portfolio allocations in the state. Apparently the Sena chief is in no mood to give in to the BJP’s formula for the state in exchange for two berths at the Centre.
With the BJP not ready to give the deputy chief minister’s post, the Sena is demanding key portfolios related to urban issues.
Sena sources said issues with their former ally are still not sorted out. “For now, we don’t want to comment on any development. Uddhavji will take a decision on all issues. But we only hope that the BJP will reciprocate our gesture of attending the swearing-in ceremony in a respectable manner,” said Sena MP Sanjay Raut. “What the BJP is giving us at the Centre can’t be in exchange for fewer berths in the state. They are different issues.”
The overwhelming feeling in the Sena is that the BJP is deliberately cornering it.
According to a Sena source, even as talks between both camps are going on, the BJP has given the cabin and the bungalow occupied by Ajit Pawar as deputy chief minister to revenue minister Eknath Khadse. This has been done without keeping the Sena in the loop.
The sources also pointed out that chief minister Devendra Fadnavis had already allocated the key portfolios of home, revenue, urban development and public works to BJP ministers.
However, a senior BJP leader from Delhi said the absence of a mediator was creating trouble. “There are no informal talks happening. We need a mediator who can settle the issues between the Sena and the BJP. There is too much bitterness in the BJP’s senior leadership and the Sena hasn’t tried hard enough to build the relationship,” he said.
A section of Sena leaders have now started working on a plan B, under which they will try to get NCP and Congress support for a Sena nominee as speaker of the assembly.
According to unconfirmed reports, three Sena leaders met NCP leader Ajit Pawar on Friday and held primary discussions on this issue.
The election will he held during the three-day session being convened to pass the trust vote. The speaker’s post is crucial in a fractured mandate. Having a Sena speaker could mean trouble for the BJP, which may struggle in running a minority government.
Such a situation could also suit the NCP, which wants to keep the BJP on tenterhooks by supporting it from outside. State BJP leaders did not comment on the developments.