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Session in mind, BJP wants Sena on board

With 10 days to go for the state legislature’s winter session at Nagpur, the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party is trying to get former ally Shiv Sena to join its minority government.

mumbai Updated: Nov 28, 2014 01:11 IST
HT Correspondents

With 10 days to go for the state legislature’s winter session at Nagpur, the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party is trying to get former ally Shiv Sena to join its minority government.

Talks to work out a power-sharing formula with the Sena will resume on Friday, CM Devendra Fadnavis said on Thursday. “Two of our senior leaders from the Centre and state, Union petroleum minister Dharmendra Pradhan and state PWD minister Chandrakant Patil, have been authorised to discuss things with the Sena. We are confident the Sena will join us in the government,” Fadnavis said, on the sidelines of a function at the Mumbai university.

The CM said he spoke with Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray on the telephone, after which the BJP decided to get representatives to begin talks.

Sources said the Sena is willing to join the government, if it gets some key departments related to urban areas. The party may not insist on deputy chief ministership, but expects two more ministerial posts, including a Cabinet berth in the Union council of ministers.

“We are hopeful about a good result,” Union minister Anant Geete (from the Sena) told HT in Delhi.

Thackeray, however, chose not to speak on the issue. A senior Sena leader said, “Uddhavji has made it clear no Sena leader will go to Delhi and that the talks be held in Mumbai. Depending on what we are offered to join the government, he will take the decision.”

Pradhan and Patil will meet Thackeray at his residence on Friday evening. This is not the first time the two ministers will talk to the Sena. The duo had been in touch with the party before the Fadnavis cabinet took oath on October 31.

The Sena and BJP stopped talks earlier this month, after the former asked their Union minister-elect Anil Desai to boycott PM Narendra Modi’s Cabinet expansion.

But, as the Fadnavis government gears up for its first full-fledged state legislature session and with the BJP short of majority in the 288-member Assembly by at least 10 members, it now feels the need to get the Sena on board.

Not allying with the Sena will leave them dependent on the Sharad Pawar-led Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) to sail through the winter session. This is something Fadnavis is not keen on, party sources said. If the Sena joins the government, its strength will be more than 180.

The BJP had drawn flak for taking the NCP’s support to pass the trust vote in the Assembly. “I never faced as much criticism in my political career as I faced after the trust vote,” Fadnavis had said, while speaking at the HT Leadership Summit last Saturday.

The Sena became the leader of the opposition in the Assembly after the BJP rejected the party’s demand for the deputy CM’s post and some key departments. While it has targeted the ruling party about various issues in the state, it chose not to pull out of the NDA government at the Centre.
The CM is also expanding his 10-member cabinet as he needs more ministers to handle business in the legislature during the winter session. If things work out with the Sena, new ministers from both parties will take oath in first week of December.

BJP’s national president, Amit Shah, may announce a post-poll alliance with the Sena during his visit to the city on November 29. “Shah may even meet Thackeray, if things fall in place,” said a senior BJP leader.