The Shiv Sena made another desperate effort on Thursday to reach out to the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), even as it promised to announce its stand on joining the Devendra Fadnavis government soon.
The Sena, in an editorial in mouthpiece Saamna, praised Prime Minister Narendra Modi and chief minister-designate Devendra Fadnavis, saying the state can expect 'acchhe din' (good days) under them, but cautioned its former ally against accepting Nationalist Congress Party's (NCP's) support.
It said that the first big challenge the Fadnavis government will face will be the floor test and that if the BJP seeks support from the Sharad Pawar-led NCP, it will raise questions about its credibility.
"You (BJP) have come to power by promising to convert Maharashtra into a corruption free and a Congress-NCP free state.
You (Devendra Fadnavis) come from the Vidarbha region where the NCP had carried out a huge irrigation scam," the Sena said.
Meanwhile, Fadnavis is in Delhi to hold talks with and BJP president Amit Shah, just a day ahead of the Maharashtra CM's swearing-in ceremony at the Wankhede Stadium.
Uddhav's party has also told the BJP to include its leaders in the oath-taking ceremony, TV channels reported early Thursday, quoting unnamed sources.
A Sena leader told mediapersons on Wednesday, "We met (Shiv Sena chief) Uddhav Thackeray and discussed the future course of action with him. The wait is over now, just one more day. We will announce our decision tomorrow (Thursday)."
However, there are also indications that the Sena was ready with a Plan B, which includes Uddhav's party contesting the assembly speaker's poll — a move that could make the BJP uncomfortable.
The BJP, which has 122 seats in the 288-member Maharashtra assembly, needs 23 more legislators to reach the magic figure. BJP legislator, Govind Rathod (elected from Nanded district), died of a heart attack last Sunday. With the support of small parties and independents, the BJP's tally is around 135.
The NCP, with 41 MLAs, has offered unconditional support to the BJP on the day election results were declared. Some reports also said the BJP was prepared to run a minority government.
But, speculations are rife that the BJP will finally join hands with the Sena. The two parties parted ways ahead of the October 15 elections following differences over the sharing of seats.
While the Sena is demanding one-third of the portfolios in the Maharashtra cabinet - and the swearing-in of two of their ministers with Fadnavis' team - the BJP continues to play hardball with its former ally, apparently buoyed by the advantageous position it is in.
Even though JP Nadda, the newly-appointed BJP general secretary in charge of Maharashtra, said his party wanted to take the Sena along, there are reports that no breakthrough was in sight yet.
A top central BJP leader, when asked if there was any headway in discussions with the Sena, said talks would resume only after the oath- taking ceremony on Friday.
"No talks (with Sena) are currently underway. Our whole focus is on making October 31 a grand success. We will resume talks only after that," he told PTI, speaking on the condition of anonymity.
Meanwhile, a source said Uddhav was prepared for the worst and had started working on an alternative.
The Sena has zeroed in on the names of some of its legislators for the leader of opposition position.
According to Sena leaders, the BJP is asking them to be part of the government without any concrete proposal, and that is unacceptable to Uddhav.
"If we are going to be part of the government, then we should know how many ministries we will get. We need our ministers to be sworn in along with the BJP ministers.
"Right now, all the BJP has said is 'come on board and then we will decide'. The Sena doesn't want to seem like a beggar. It has been conveyed to Uddhavji that we are ready to sit in the opposition," said a senior Sena legislator, adding that the Sena chief did not want to seem as being "unreasonable" by refusing to speak with the BJP.
Another legislator said the BJP must realise that before proving majority in the assembly, they will have to elect a Speaker.
The Sena is in talks with the NCP and the Congress to support a Sena candidate for the post.
If this happens, the BJP will then be forced to deal with the Sena for all decisions in the House, including passing important bills.
"...things will get difficult for the BJP on the floor of the House," said the MLA.
(with agency inputs)