It has been almost a month since the assembly results were announced, but former allies Shiv Sena and Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) are determined to take the government formation process down to the wire.
On Sunday, despite Shiv Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray threatening to sit in the Opposition, the BJP claimed to be in a position to prove its majority on the floor of the assembly on November 12, in a special session beginning Monday.
The BJP did not soften its stand, more so because of the Sena’s attempt to humiliate Prime Minister Narendra Modi by boycotting the expansion of the Union cabinet in which Sena MP Anil Desai was invited to take oath.
With a clear message from the high command, chief minister Devendra Fadnavis termed Sena’s decision as ‘sad and unfortunate’.
“It is unfortunate the Sena dishonoured the PM’s invitation (to the swearing-in). We are disheartened with the Sena’s decision,” he said before a pre-assembly session on Sunday.
“Desai [minister-elect] was recommended for a berth in the Union cabinet in consultation with the Sena leadership,” he said, adding the Sena should have trusted the PM. The BJP continues to rely on the Sharad Pawar-led NCP’s unconditional support from outside. Even the Sena’s decision to elect its group leader — who would be in the Opposition if the Sena and BJP do not strike a deal — did not deter the ruling party.
Fadnavis indicated the BJP was not going to budge when he said there was no point discussing the number of Cabinet berths and ministries (at the Centre and state).
The Sena wants one-third of the berths in the state government, including the deputy chief minister’s office. It wanted more berths at the Centre as well. But the BJP wants the Sena to first support the government during the trust vote. On Sunday, however, Thackeray said he will take a final call on the day of the trust vote.
In response to the Sena’s demand on the NCP, the BJP maintained it had not ask the NCP for support and blamed the Sena for approaching NCP leaders in a bid to defeat the BJP during the trust vote. The BJP claimed to have support of 138 MLAs – only seven short of a majority in the 288-member house.
“It will be entirely the NCP’s decision to support us. We did not ask for support. We have not met any NCP leader after the poll results were out. And if we may ask, can the Sena tell us who met the NCP leaders to form new political equations ahead of the trust vote? Everyone knows who these leaders were…,” state BJP spokesperson Madhav Bhandari told HT.
BJP insiders said the Sena was tangled in its own web because of an unfavourable response from the NCP. “It wanted the NCP’s help to get its candidate elected as speaker and also defeat the government.
Pawar said on Saturday he was not interested in destabilising the government,” said a senior BJP leader. “It is because of this development that the Sena has kept its options open, but the party is behaving as though it has put us [the BJP] under pressure,” he said.