With the Shiv Sena sitting in the Opposition, the possibility of the Uddhav Thackeray-led party joining hands with the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) to form the government seemed almost next to impossible on Wednesday. But according to insiders, the BJP may attempt to woo the Sena, though without any conditions, to expand the state Cabinet ahead of the winter session of the legislature, which is expected to start in Nagpur on December 8.
The BJP is hopeful of reaching an agreement with its former ally, which boycotted the union Cabinet expansion last weekend but has not yet quit the Narendra Modi government.
Though refusing to comment further, chief minister Devendra Fadnavis told HT he plans to expand the Cabinet before the Nagpur session.
Revenue minister Eknath Khadse told the media the expansion will happen after a fortnight.
On Wednesday, the Shiv Sena made some calculated moves, fearing a total disenchantment in the BJP camp.
It did make noise against the trust vote, calling it anti-constitutional, but did not participate in the protests being
staged by the Congressagainst governor Ch Vidyasagar Rao.
The Congress got its five legislators suspended for two years on charges of manhandling the governor before he addressed the joint session.
Expectedly, the Sena legislators, who had taken the lead in blocking the governor’s car at the main gate before the Congressmen stepped, were spared by the government. Insiders in the BJP said their party did not want to humiliate the Sena further.
Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray’s close aide Milind Narvekar called on both Fadnavis and Khadse in their offices in the legislature on Wednesday and had a brief chat with them.
Sources said the Sena claimed the post of the Opposition leader because the Congress, too, wanted it. The Sena also responded to CM Fadnavis’ request for withdrawing from the Speaker’s contest.
In their failed talks, the Sena expected 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 on November 12.
But the BJP wanted the Sena to make “reasonable” demands, as the BJP has 121 seats. The two parties split just before the Assembly elections after 25 years together.
Some BJP leaders still prefer to take the Sena along as they believe associating with the NCP would be politically damaging in the future.