Finally, the formation of a government in Maharashtra is in sight.
The decks were cleared for the formation of a new government in Maharashtra, possibly on Friday. A formal announcement to this effect is expected on Thursday after state in-charge A.K. Antony returns to Delhi and confers with the party leadership.
“We don’t see any obstacle,’’ said Union Minister Praful Patel after a late night meeting of NCP leaders, including Chhagan Bhujbal, R.R. Patil and Ajit Pawar at party chief Sharad Pawar’s 6 Janpath residence.
As the chief NCP’s negotiator with the Congress, Patel held two rounds of consultations with Congress president Sonia Gandhi’s political secretary Ahmed Patel.
The minister was tightlipped about the formula on which a consensus was being built between the two. Besides seeking additional ministerial berths, the Congress as the senior partner in the coalition wanted to take back some key portfolios like home, finance or power from the NCP.
“Whatever we have discussed is on the basis of 10 years of cooperation,’’ Patel said.
The Congress denied having asked the NCP to part with any important departments.
“We did not demand any department from the NCP. Our main contention was distribution of cabinet berths based on the strength of respective parties,’’ said Congress’s state unit chief Manikrao Thakre in Mumbai.
The first indication of things working out came from Chief Minister-designate Ashok Chavan who told reporters at his Mantralaya office on Wednesday: “We will have the new government in 48 hours.’’
Chavan’s statement comes a day after Governor S.C. Jamir issued an ultimatum on government formation.
Patel spoke in a similar vein in Nagpur. “I am hopeful that the state would get its new government within the next 24 hours,” he said. “We have almost reached an understanding by sorting out the contentious issues. An announcement will be made by Thursday afternoon.”
Taking a cue from the developments on Wednesday, the Protocol Department swung into action at the Raj Bhavan to give finishing touches to the 2000-seat tent for the swearing in ceremony. The tent was erected last week.
(With inputs from Pradip Maitra, Nagpur)