They are still going back and forth. Twenty-one days after the results of the Maharashtra assembly elections were announced, the Shiv Sena and the BJP have yet to strike a deal on sharing power in the state and at the Centre. Their 25-year-old relationship appears to be on its last leg.
On Sunday, the Sena boycotted the expansion of the Narendra Modi cabinet at the Centre and said it will prefer to sit in the Opposition in Maharashtra if the BJP decides to seek the NCP’s support to win the trust vote on November 12. The BJP, for its part, is in no mood to concede an inch to the Sena.
Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray has almost made up his mind to sit in the Opposition in Maharashtra and pull out of the NDA government. The operative word is almost. He has left a two-day window for a resolution.
“We have two more days for the trust vote, and we are in favour of bringing in a stable government. But if the BJP decides to take direct or indirect support from the NCP, which is an anti-Hindutva party, then the Shiv Sena will go against the trust vote. We will sit in the Opposition and not be part of the government at the cost of self-respect,” Uddhav said after a meeting of party MLAs and MPs.
The Sena’s 63 MLAs elected Eknath Shinde as their group leader. He will be the leader of the Opposition in the Assembly if things don’t work out between the Sena and the BJP.
Unfazed, chief minister Devendra Fadnavis indicated that the BJP would not relent any further. He termed Thackeray’s decision unfortunate. “They (the Sena) should have trusted PM Narendra Modi. “[Anil] Desai’s name was recommended for the Union cabinet in consultation with the Sena leadership,” he said, adding that the parties should not talk number of berths or departments, but deal with the issues to arrive at a power-sharing agreement.
BJP insiders said the party had the support of 138 MLAs and could sail through comfortably. “We are confident of winning the trust vote. And if the NCP votes for us or abstains from voting it would be its decision, because we have not approached it officially. On the other hand, NCP leaders said the Sena did seek their support to destabilise us,” said a BJP leader.
Thackeray said he was not weak or desperate for power. “We will not face humiliation over and over again and respond the way we have done today,” he said, leaving a two-day window for the BJP to get back.
He reminded the BJP that it was NCP boss Sharad Pawar who had caused the defeat of Atal Behari Vajpayee’s 13-day government. “The BJP needs to think before it takes help from anti-Hindutva forces. Pawar is the same person who framed the term ‘saffron terrorism’,” he said.
The BJP has 121 seats in the 288-member house; it needs 24 more for a majority. Ideally, it should have the support of the Sena with 63 seats. But the NCP has already declared its support from outside. This means NCP could either abstain from the trust vote or vote for the BJP.
Talks between the two are sruck because the Sena wants 12 ministerial berths along with deputy chief ministership or home department. It also wants departments related to urban issues. The BJP wants the Sena to first vote in its favour during the trust vote.
“The possibility of first voting in their favour is out of question. After the experiences of the past few months, we cannot believe them,” Uddhav added.
In his meeting with legislators, Uddhav is reported to have told his MLAs to sit in the opposition and even got an approval letter signed from all 63 for the same.
“Uddhavji told us we will sit in the opposition. We all signed a letter that will be given to the speaker once the final decision is made. The reason for leaving the two-day window period is on the insistence of senior party leaders who feel that they should allow the BJP to take the last call. Also they don’t want to give time for any party defections,” a senior legislator who attended the meeting told Hindustan Times.