The Shiv Sena may have taken its seats in the Opposition in the new Maharashtra assembly session that began on Monday but party sources say it is still hoping for a last-minute turnaround before the trust vote.
A Shiv Sena MLA told Hindustan Times not to conclude anything before the floor test on Wednesday. "Things might move 180 degrees.This is Thackeray style," he said.
The Sena nominated Eknath Shinde for leader of the Opposition post even as it continued talks with the BJP, with party chief Uddhav Thackeray justifying the move as an attempt to outmanoeuvre the Congress.
“The talks (with BJP) are going on and on and what if it doesn’t work? Then we won’t get either (neither power nor post of opposition leader),” Thackeray said at a party meet on Monday evening
The Sena expects the BJP to concede its demands —10-12 ministerial berths with key portfolios and the post of deputy chief minister or home minister — to vote in favour of the trust vote. The BJP, which has 121 MLAs in the 288-member House, is 23 votes short of a majority.
BJP's national observer Rajiv Pratap Rudy said his party welcomed the support of "all parties except Congress for development of Maharashtra," in apparent bid to keep up the pressure on Shiv Sena.
BJP sources said more than politics it is the Sena's earlier tirade against Prime Minister Narendra Modi which is at the crux of the standoff.
The BJP is particularly miffed by the signed article by a Shiv Sena leader which said even 'Modi ka baap' would not have won so many Lok Sabha seats in Maharashtra without Sena support. Thackeray had distanced himself from this remark then.
The two parties split just before the assembly elections after 25 years together. A section of BJP leaders would prefer to take the Sena along as they believe accepting outside support of the NCP would be politically damaging.
A senior BJP leader told HT that the doors were kept open for the Sena even after the day’s development. “Talks with the Sena are on through several channels. We are still hopeful of the Sena withdrawing the claim [to the post of leader of the opposition] if we strike a suitable deal.”
Chief minister Devendra Fadnavis himself would prefer to go with `natural ally’ Sena, but wants Thackeray to make `reasonable’ demands since the BJP is the single-largest party and close to the majority mark.
The Sena leadership, while slowly reconciling itself to sitting in the opposition, is wary the BJP could poach some of its 63 MLAs. It is also worried it could lose control of the Mumbai civic body, where it is in alliance with the BJP.
Armed with a Plan B for winning the trust vote -- support from the NCP's 41 legislators and 14 to 17 MLAs from small parties and Independents -- the BJP was still hopeful of patching up with the Sena.
It prefers the Sena because of their common ideology and experience of working together. The BJP was unwilling to go with NCP because of the party’s tainted track record.
The BJP can expect find the going tough if it leans on the NCP. Pawar gave it a veiled warning on Monday when he said that the BJP should reopen and inquire into all the cases (of corruption and irregularities) against his leaders.