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Thursday, Nov 14, 2019

Congress, NCP gear up to form Maharashtra government as BJP-Shiv Sena tussle escalates

The Congress high command is reportedly thinking positively about supporting a Shiv Sena-led government, with NCP chief Sharad Pawar set to play a key role.

mumbai Updated: Nov 09, 2019 06:55 IST
Surendra P Gangan and Faisal Malik
Surendra P Gangan and Faisal Malik
Hindustan Times, Mumbai
Devendra Fadnavis along with Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray and his sons Tejas and Aditya
Devendra Fadnavis along with Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray and his sons Tejas and Aditya(PTI)
         

With the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) on the brink of snapping ties with its decades-old ally Shiv Sena, the Congress and Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) have geared up to play an active role in the formation of the government.

The Congress high command is reportedly thinking positively about supporting a Shiv Sena-led government, with NCP chief Sharad Pawar set to play a key role. Leaders from the Congress and Shiv Sena met Pawar after Fadnavis attacked the Sena in a press conference. Shiv Sena leader Sanjay Raut and Congress leaders Balasaheb Thorat, Ashok Chavan, Sushilkumar Shinde, Prithviraj Chavan and others met Pawar at his south Mumbai residence. Pawar, who has been in constant touch with leaders from other parties over the past two weeks, has prepared a plan to form a government of three parties, said sources.

“Coming together was never a problem for the Shiv Sena and NCP. In fact, it was on the cards for both the parties from the day the results were announced. Convincing the central leadership of the Congress was a task, as it was wary of inviting the wrath of Muslims, the party’s traditional vote bank. With pressure from a majority of elected MLAs, who are strongly in favour of joining the Sena, the party high command is considering the option. The final nod is expected soon,” said a senior Congress leader, on condition of anonymity. “However, the party will have to consider the situation as the Supreme Court is expected to deliver its verdict on Ayodhya land dispute on Saturday,” he said.

According to a Congress leader from Delhi, in a high-level meeting, three top leaders of the party deliberated on the possibility of support. “The party will demand the post of speaker, irrespective of the decision on direct or indirect support to a Sena-led government. One group of our state leaders is of the opinion that the party should participate in the government, as the minority or backward classes will see it as a step to keep the BJP out of power,” he said.

NCP leaders feel it is an opportunity to revive its ground in rural areas and cooperative sector. It has been in talks with the Shiv Sena, the second largest party with 56 members, over the past two weeks. Together with the Congress (44 MLAs) and NCP (54 MLAs), the Sena can stake claim, with a tally of 154. The three parties also claim to have support of at least 20 members of smaller parties such as Bahujan Vikas Aghadi, Raju Shetti- led Swabhimani Paksha, Bachchu Kadu- led Prahar Janshakti Party, Samajwadi Party, AIMIM, and some independents.

In case the Congress refuses to support the Sena-led government from outside, the NCP has a plan B in place to sustain the floor test. “With the Shiv Sena and NCP’s tally reaching 110, we will take support of 19 more members from the smaller allies and independents. We will need support of some Congress legislators,” a NCP leader said.

Maharashtra Congress chief Balasaheb Thorat said they have not taken any decision and were waiting for the governor to act in the current critical political situation. Former CM Prithviraj Chavan said as the BJP has admitted it would not form the government, they were holding talks with the NCP to tap other possibilities.

Earlier in the day, Pawar said the governor should have started the procedure to form the next government. “In many states, the governor has invited the single largest party to form the government in such a situation. I don’t know why the governor is not inviting the BJP,” Pawar said.

He said both the parties (the BJP and Sena) should show mutual understanding and come together to form the government. He, however, denied any possibility of re-election. Union minister and RPI chief Ramdas Athawale, too, met Pawar at his residence and requested him to see how the stalemate can be sorted.

State NCP chief Jayant Patil said governor Bhagat Singh Koshyari should now invite the second largest party — Shiv Sena — to stake its claim. “As the BJP did not stake its claim, the governor should now invite the Sena,” Patil said. He, however, denied giving support to the party. “In that case, the BJP should support its ally (Shiv Sena), as people’s mandate is for the BJP-Sena alliance. The mandate for us (NCP and Congress) is to sit in the opposition,” he said.