In yet another indication of its willingness to make the Shiv Sena part of the Maharashtra government, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) said on Thursday it was in talks with its former ally and expected positive results.
“Deliberations with the Sena are on. I am confident the talks will yield positive results,” said Rajiv Pratap Rudy, Union minister and BJP general secretary, at the party’s Nariman Point office. He said the Sena was still part of the government at the Centre, while admitting a few issues at the state might need to be resolved.
Rudy stressed there was no bitterness with the Sena, especially after the assembly poll results in which the BJP emerged the single-largest party and formed its government. The two parties had parted ways before the polls, and then tried to patch up to form an alliance government, but the effort has not succeeded, because the BJP wants the Sena to support it unconditionally.
The development is crucial as the BJP has been in a fix over seeking support from parties other than the Sena, which is its natural ally.
But, with 121 MLAs in the assembly (plus one ally), the BJP has rejected the Sena’s demand for the deputy chief minister’s post and other plum ministries.
Although the Uddhav Thackeray-led party even boycotted the expansion of the Union cabinet, after talks of participation in the state did not work in its favour, the Sena has still not asked Anant Geete — its MP in the Union government — to quit in anticipation of joining the Devendra Fadnavis government.
Contrary to the claim by BJP leaders, Sena sources refuted claims of “concrete” talks going on. “It is good the BJP expects positive results in its talks with us, but for now, we are concentrating on our role in the opposition. If they have a concrete proposal, it is better they talk to Uddhavji directly,” said a senior Sena leader.
According to another Sena leader, Rudy was not authorised to take the final decisions about the alliance. ”Nothing can be considered authentic until till BJP president Amit Shah or PM Narendra Modi take a call on this issue,” he said.
State revenue minister Eknath Khadse, one of Sena’s adversaries in the BJP, said the two parties would be friends as long as Geete remained in the Modi Cabinet. “The friendship will end the moment Geete quits,” Khadse told reporters, after Rudy’s statement.