A day after Devendra Fadnavis was sworn in as Maharashtra's 27th chief minister, the Shiv Sena reportedly asked the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) to spell out a concrete proposal on ministerial berth allocation ahead of a trust vote in the state assembly likely in the second week of November.
Even though uncertainty continues over whether the estranged allies will join hands to form a stable government in the state, the Sena on Saturday sent out indications that the talks will go on in a "positive manner".
"Sena president Uddhav Thackeray had detailed discussion with BJP leaders Amit Shah and Arun Jaitley yesterday (Friday)," party spokesperson Neelam Gorhe said.
"I am sure Sena and BJP representatives (in Maharashtra) will have positive talks," she added.
Discussions between the BJP and the Sena over a possible patch-up have remained topsy-turvy and inconclusive so far. The BJP and the Sena, which has 63 MLAs in the state, parted ways ahead of the assembly elections after 25 years of bonhomie following differences over sharing of seats.
Uddhav backtracked on his decision to give Fadnavis' swearing in a miss and
arrived at the Wankhede Stadium
on Friday after being approached by senior BJP leaders, hinting at a rapprochment between the saffron parties.
Earlier, the Sena had resolved to skip the event attended by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, citing "constant humiliation" by the BJP.
However, Sena MP Vinayak Raut later said BJP president Amit Shah had assured Uddhav of a positive decision on participation of his party in the new government.
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.
Meanwhile, Sena MP and Uddhav's emissary, Anil Desai, is said to have spoken to Union finance minister Arun Jaitley on Saturday, conveying to him the Sena's request of completing the discussion before the trust vote.
A source indicated that the Sena's demand of getting one-third of the ministerial posts in the government still remained. For now, the party is said to have demanded 10 seats, considering the government will have 30 ministerial berths.
Asked about reports that Sena had demanded deputy chief minister's post too and threatened to sit in opposition if the BJP didn't comply, state BJP spokesperson Madhav Bhandari said, "We don't comment on any unofficial report."
When contacted, a Sena leader, however, said there was no harm if the outfit got the key post.
The Fadnavis government will seek a vote of confidence in his government during a special session of the assembly beginning on November 11, official sources had said on Friday.
Governor C Vidyasagar Rao has given Fadnavis 15 days from the day of his government was sworn in to prove its majority in the 288-member House.
The NCP, which has 41 MLAs, has offered unconditional support to the BJP. If the NCP abstains from voting, the BJP will get an upper hand and will be in an advantageous position to form a minority government.
"We are still ready to sit in the opposition if the BJP does not give us respectable portfolios. Yesterday (Friday) Uddhavji obliged keeping the respect of senior BJP leaders who invited him. Now everything depends on what offer we get from the BJP," said a senior Sena legislator.
Sena sounds caution
Sena cautioned Fadnavis
on Saturday against taking the people for granted and asked him to fulfil the expectations of the common man.
"The new government is like a newly-wed woman who initially pleases her mother-in-law. In this case the mother- in-law is the people of Maharashtra. You cannot take people for granted. They have the power to pull your ears when you err," an editorial in Sena mouthpiece Saamna said.
This is the first lesson the new government will have to learn, the Sena added.
Fadnavis in action
Fadnavis visited the Bal Thackeray memorial at Shivaji Park on Saturday evening in a move that sent positive signals to the Sena camp.
He also held his first cabinet meeting during which he vowed to work for the people of the state.
A day after taking charge, the 44-year-old leader reviewed the status of key departments.
The chief minister assessed presentations of finance, agriculture, home and energy departments.
The secretaries of the concerned departments explained the status of projects of these departments.
Fadnavis, who is believed to have been endorsed by Modi for the chief minister's post, said he planned to develop his office on the lines of the PMO to ensure faster and efficient working of his administration.
"I am in the process of developing the office of chief minister on the lines of the Prime Minister's Office (PMO) where a set of select bureaucrats assist the ministers in case they are not able to carry out certain tasks," Fadnavis said.
The strengthening of Chief Minister's Office (CMO) will remove the bottlenecks and pendency of work would be reduced when bureaucrats enter the scene to help ministers, he said.
On the demand for abolition of local body tax (LBT), Fadnavis said he was contemplating introduction of turnover tax on VAT.
The BJP had promised to do away with LBT during its poll campaign.
(with agency inputs)