The possibility of supporting a Shiv Sena-led government to pose an opposition to the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which is seven seats short of reaching a simple majority in the 288-member house, was ruled out by the Congress state leadership, when it met on Monday night.
On Tuesday, Ajay Maken, All India Congress Committee’s in-charge for communications, issued a statement that the claim made by Pawar was “preposterous”. “The Congress has never supported parties such as the Shiv Sena and will never support it in the future too. It is for the BJP to decide whether it will join hands with the ‘Hafta Wasuli Party’ or the ‘Naturally Corrupt Party’. They also need to explain what made them change their stand in two days,” he said.
The Monday meeting was unscheduled and was called after Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) chief Sharad Pawar made a statement that the Congress had approached him to support a Sena government.
Despite the decision to sit in the opposition, a section in the party was considering the move.
“Some leaders think it would not be wrong to support a Sena-led government to buy time. If the BJP forms the government, they will be here for five years or even more. They could marginalise the Sena, which will not be good for the Congress in the long run,” said a senior party leader, adding the leaders felt that such support could be withdrawn in 7-8 months.
The late night meeting was attended by former chief ministers Prithviraj Chavan, Sushilkumar Shinde, Ashok Chavan, Narayan Rane, outgoing state president Manikrao Thakre and former minister Nitin Raut.
After the meeting, Thakre, who submitted his resignation on the day of the results, said the Congress would never consider the possibility of supporting a Shiv Sena government and the statement made by NCP chief Sharad Pawar was mischievous.
“We have to accept people’s mandate and sit in the opposition. In any case, the Congress had not approached the NCP, but Pawar had asked some Congress leaders about supporting the Sena government. When he didn’t get a response, he announced support to the BJP. Most of us agreed that people would not forgive us for supporting a Sena-led government,’’ said a senior party leader, present at the meeting.
The BJP, during its campaign had attacked the NCP as a ‘Naturally Corrupt Party’, and may face flak for taking support of the party to form the government in Maharashtra.