With few days left for the deadline to put a government in place, the Congress and the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) have gone into top gear.
Chief Minister Ashok Chavan has rushed to Delhi to discuss with the party high command the power-sharing formula.
The government has to be formed by November 3 but the two sides have been haggling over the share in the council of ministers ever since the results for the assembly elections were declared on October 22.
“The ball is in the court of the Congress now. We have demanded 21 berths. It is up to them to decide what they want to do,” said NCP spokesperson Madan Bafna.
The new government could be sworn in any time if the Congress high command clears the formula.
The next round of direct talks between the two parties is now expected to resume on Sunday morning when senior NCP leader Praful Patel returns from Istanbul.
Congress leaders have suggested to the NCP that a few ministers from both sides should take the oath along with Chavan and his deputy, Chhagan Bhujbal, as the government needs to be formed by November 3. The contentious issue of sharing of portfolios can be sorted out later, the Congress feels. The NCP is yet to respond to the suggestion.
The bone of contention between the two parties is the Congress’ rising clout in the state’s electoral politics. The Congress is seeking more ministerial berths as its numbers in the assembly have increased. The party also wants control of important portfolios like home, finance, energy and rural development.
Certain NCP leaders also hinted at exploring other alliances. “A proposal similar to the Progressive Democratic Front (PDF) was not a bad idea,” senior NCP leader Govindrao Adik said in Pune on Saturday.
The PDF was formed when NCP chief Sharad Pawar broke away from the Congress and joined hands with the main opposition party, the Janata Dal, in 1979. Pawar became the CM.