The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has stepped up attempts to get the Shiv Sena to participate in the state government. The two parties are likely to seal the deal before chief minister Devendra Fadnavis expands his Cabinet ahead of the state legislature's winter session that begins early next month.There were strong indications of this during Fadnavis' visit to the national capital on Saturday to discuss impending issues with party president Amit Shah - such as the Sena's participation, cabinet expansion (with or without Sena) and selection of a president for the state BJP unit. "Sena is our friend and will remain our friend. We know each other well and are talking about it [post-poll alliance] with the Sena," Fadnavis told HT.
The BJP wants the Sena on board primarily to stabilise its government, which won a trust vote on November 12, but received flak from the people and the Opposition for having a tacit understanding with the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP), which supports the government from outside. The NCP's flip-flops have added to the Fadnavis government's problems, which can secure itself fully by getting the Sena's 63 MLAs with its 122 (including one ally).
Sources said the BJP was likely to give the Sena one more Cabinet berth in the Union government and 8-10 berths in the state. The deal may face some hiccups if the Sena insists on the deputy chief minister's post, which the BJP had rejected during an early round of talks.
The former allies proved their comfort levels are improving on Friday night when Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray welcomed Union railways minister Suresh Prabhu to his home. Prabhu quit the Sena in a dramatic fashion before getting sworn-in recently. The Sena had boycotted the swearing-in ceremony because of Prabhu's inclusion and because they claimed the BJP gave them a raw deal.
Prabhu's visit is learned to have given a push to talks between the estranged parties, which parted ways 15 days before the state went to Assembly polls in October.
Sena representative in the Modi cabinet Anant Geete endorsed the attempt of rapprochement when he said his party would not quit the NDA. "My party is positive about joining the state government," he said in New Delhi.
Fadnavis' Cabinet colleague Chandrakant Patil, who has been interacting with the Sena, expected the Sena leaders to take oath as ministers anytime next week.