BJP hints at NCP support ahead of trust vote, Sena remains noncommital

  • Dharmendra Jore and Sayli Udas Mankikar, Hindustan Times, Mumbai
  • Updated: Nov 14, 2014 08:47 IST

With Shiv Sena carrying its confrontation with the BJP a step further on Tuesday , the Maharashtra assembly will witness a triangular contest for the post of speaker.

Haribhau Bagde of BJP, Vijay Avti of Shiv Sena and Varsha Gaikwad of Congress have filed nominations for the post. The deadline for withdrawal is 10am Tuesday.

Principal secretary (legislature) Anant Kalse said this is the first time the house is witnessing a three-way contest for the post.

In 2009, NCP's Dilip Walse-Patil had been elected unopposed after the opposition candidate Girish Bapat (BJP) withdrew his nomination.

Shiv Sena president Uddhav Thackeray today addressed a meeting of Sena legislators ahead of BJP's Devendra Fadnavis-led Maharashtra government's trust vote tomorrow.

However, Uddhav left the venue without speaking to waiting reporters after the meeting which lasted for more than an hour.

Shiv Sena sources said that the party's MLAs have been asked to remain present at the Vidhan Bhawan at 9 am tomorrow.

The voting will start at 11am and will be through a secret ballot and not a show of hands or voice vote.

"If one of the candidates polls more votes than that polled together by the other two, the one with the highest votes gets elected. Otherwise, the candidate with the least votes is eliminated and there is another round," Kalse said.

The result will be announced in the House itself.Of the total of 288 MLAs, 286 members have taken the oath in the last two days. BJP's Govind Rathod passed away sometime ago, while Surupsing Naik of Congress, who was not present in the last two days, is yet to take the oath.

Meanwhile, state Congress president Manikrao Thakre said he had spoken to his NCP counterpart Sunil Tatkare, seeking support for Gaikwad.

"NCP has said it will play the role of Opposition. They can support the government in the trust vote but we expect their support in the Speaker's election," he said.

Thakre said Tatkare assured him that the issue would be discussed and a decision would be taken.

BJP: We welcome support of all parties except Congress

A day ahead of the trust vote in the Maharashtra assembly , the BJP said it welcomes support of all parties except Congress for development of the state.

"The BJP will welcome support of all parties except Congress, which is responsible for the mess, so that the government can work for development of Maharashtra and fulfil the aspirations of its people, senior BJP leader Rajiv Pratap Rudy said.

The remark by Rudy, who was in-charge of Maharashtra affairs of BJP till recently, indicated that the BJP was not averse to receiving support of all non-Congress parties in the state, including the NCP.

"Those who want to come forward for the development of Maharashtra should come. We want to take along all those who want to come forward for the development of Maharashtra. I hope Shiv Sena will turn around," he said.

Asked about Sharad Pawar's NCP, he said that party has already extended unconditional support but dismissed suggestions that they will be running the show in the state.

On a query whether Union Minister Anant Geete will soon resign and Shiv Sena will sit in opposition in Maharashtra, he said he was not aware of Geete resigning.

"Even prior to elections, we wanted to take Shiv Sena along and post-elections also, wanted it to be part of the government," he said.

The remarks were significant as Shiv Sena gave conflicting signals of sitting in the Opposition in the state Assembly while appearing open to conciliatory talks.

Fadnavis ready with Plan B

Maharashtra's new chief minister, Devendra Fadnavis, has been telling friends he has still not shifted his belongings to his official residence because he may have to go back to living in Mumbai's MLA hostel any day.

But if his body language is anything to go by, Fadnavis is more than confident of winning the majority on the floor of the assembly on Wednesday.

Sources close to Fadnavis said the CM was sitting pretty with 138 MLAs — only seven short of a majority in the 288-member house — having pledged their support to his government, in case the Shiv Sena did not join.

In all, 121 MLAs from the BJP, one from the BJP’s ally Rashtriya Samaj Paksha, seven independents, three from the Bahujan Vikas Aghadi, three from the Peasants and Workers’ Party and three from other small parties will bolster the ruling party during the floor test, insiders said.

Although the BJP won 122 seats in the elections, it lost one after Mukhed MLA Govind Rathod died of a heart attack on October 26.

“Some may vote in favour and others may abstain or stay neutral,” said a senior BJP leader, who has been talking to these MLAs. He said some independents were offered ministerial berths in exchange for their support.

The BJP, however, might not need their support if the Nationalist Congress Party (41 MLAs) supports it from outside or the Sena, which has 63 legislators, joins the government. However, it will have to keep its options open in future because the NCP has decided to extend issue-based support and might pull the plug if something goes wrong.

Even the Sena can find a reason to call it quits, said a BJP leader. Fadnavis refused to comment on the possibilities.

“Everything will fall into place. Please wait till the trust vote,” he told HT.

Revenue Minister Eknath Khadse, however, expressed optimism that the BJP government would not only win the floor test but also complete its full five-year term. “It is the Shiv Sena’s decision... we are not worried as many of their legislators have already assured us of support. There are sufficient MLAs (legislators) to help us secure a majority."

In response to the Sena’s demand on the NCP, the BJP maintained it had not asked the NCP for support and blamed the Sena for approaching NCP leaders in a bid to defeat the BJP during the trust vote.

The Sena has warned the BJP that it will sit in the Opposition if the latter accepts support from the Sharad Pawar-led party.

Hopes of patch-up remain

The Sena may have taken its seats in the Opposition but party sources said it was still hoping for a last-minute turnaround before the trust vote.

A Shiv Sena MLA told Hindustan Times not to conclude anything before the floor test. "Things might move 180 degrees.This is Thackeray style," he said.

The Sena nominated Eknath Shinde for Leader of the Opposition post even as it continued talks with the BJP, with party chief Uddhav justifying the move as an attempt to outmanoeuvre the Congress.

"The talks (with BJP) are going on and on and what if it doesn't work? Then we won't get either (neither power nor post of opposition leader)," Thackeray said at a party meet on Monday evening.

The Sena expects the BJP to concede its demands --10-12 ministerial berths with key portfolios and the post of deputy chief minister or home minister -- to vote in favour of the trust vote. The BJP, which has 121 MLAs in the 288-member House, is 23 votes short of a majority.

A section of BJP leaders would prefer to take the Sena along as they believe accepting outside support of the NCP would be politically damaging.

(With PTI inputs)

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