The process of government formation in Maharashtra remained stalled for another day on Thursday with the Congress and Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) failing to arrive at an understanding on allocation of portfolios.
Defence Minister and the Congress party’s central leader in charge of Maharashtra AK Antony and party president Sonia Gandhi’s political secretary Ahmed Patel met NCP chief Sharad Pawar and Civil Aviation Minister and senior NCP leader Praful Patel over lunch in New Delhi to break the logjam, which emerged after the poll results were declared a week ago.
It was not immediately known what transpired, but Patel told presspersons after the talks that it would take the partners a few more days to reach an amicable solution.
Maharashtra Chief Minister-designate Ashok Chavan, who arrived in New Delhi on Thursday, was slated to meet the Congress president to discuss the impediments in government formation. He also called on Home Minister P Chidambaram.
The Congress having won 20 seats more than its 10-year-old ally this time is seeking a fresh power sharing formula by which it would get the key portfolios of home, finance, power and public works, which were held by the NCP so far.
The NCP with 62 seats is insisting on sticking to the 1999 formula under which it got these four portfolios. “The arrangement has been in place for last 10 years and we see no harm in continuing with it,” Patel said.
Sources in the two parties however said the partners were close to finalising a formula under which the Congress would get 22 ministries and the NCP 20. In the previous government in Maharashtra, the NCP had 24 portfolios while the Congress had 18 in addition to the chief minister’s post.
In Mumbai, Shiv Sena leader Manohar Joshi said the saffron alliance was willing to support a government led by the NCP if it snapped ties with the Congress. BJP state unit chief Nitin Gadkari supported the idea.
The Shiv Sena-BJP combine has 90 seats in the 288-member Maharashtra assembly. If they forge an alliance with the NCP, which has 62 seats, the trio can get a majority in the Assembly with 152.
Joshi’s open offer to the NCP sparked a flurry of reactions, with both NCP chief Sharad Pawar and Deputy Chief Minister-designate Chhagan Bhujbal denying any such possibility.