Devendra Fadnavis counters Shiv Sena, says Maharashtra CM will be from BJP againUpdated: Oct 30, 2019, 00:15 IST
The war of the saffrons in Maharashtra intensified on Tuesday after chief minister Devendra Fadnavis asserted that the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) never had any deal with alliance partner Shiv Sena over sharing the chief minister’s post for two-and-a-half years each. In response, Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray cancelled his party’s scheduled meeting with the BJP on Tuesday evening and threatened to go in for what it called “other options”, if the BJP did not stick to the 50:50 formula.
In the recently concluded elections to the 288-member Maharashtra Assembly, the BJP won 105 seats and the Sena captured 56. The Opposition Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) has 54 seats, while its alliance partner Congress has 44. Independents and smaller parties bring up the rear with 29 seats.
The BJP-Sena combine has a clear majority in the Assembly, but BJP alone is 40 short of the half-way mark, and is dependent, more than ever, on Sena to form and run the government. The Sena, meanwhile, is flexing its muscles, as their leaders feel the party did not get its desired share of power in the past five years. The confrontation has led to the allies unable to work out a power-sharing formula to stake claim and form the government, six days after the election results were announced.
“There was no assurance given to the Sena for the rotation of the CM post,” Fadnavis told mediapersons on Tuesday. “Shiv Sena had proposed sharing the chair for two-and-a-half years equally, but our leadership never agreed to this arrangement. I have spoken to our party president [Amit Shah] and he confirmed it.” The CM said the two parties had, in February this year, agreed upon a “50:50 formula”, but it never included the CM’s post. “The political reality changed during the Assembly polls,” Fadnavis said. “We could not share seats equally with our ally. I have no problem in offering them deputy chief minister, but they should send a formal proposal.” Fadnavis asserted that the CM will be from BJP for all five years and that he will be at the helm once again.
Responding to Fadnavis, senior Sena leader and editor of the party mouthpiece, Saamana, Sanjay Raut said, “If the CM is saying the ‘50-50 formula’ will not be discussed, then what do we talk about? Uddhavji therefore cancelled today’s meeting.” Raut said that the Sena had “other options” to form the government, but did not want to “commit that sin.”
Fadnavis said BJP did not pay heed to Raut’s statements, saying the newspaper derails the talks between the allies. “Our party is not adamant and we want the issues to the resolved,” he said. “We do not have a Plan B because Plan A is working well.”
Raut responded, “I think we need to change the definition of truth. What was discussed [about the 50:50 formula] is known to all. The media was also present.”
Some BJP leaders, on condition of anonymity, said the party leadership may offer additional key portfolios to placate the Sena. “We may offer deputy chief minister to the Sena, but even that decision has to be taken by the party leadership,” said a BJP leader.
“Sena, on their part, have indicated that they will want half of the cabinet berths and key portfolios, including home, revenue, urban development and housing. BJP has ruled out giving half the cabinet berths and home department; it is willing to give more ministerial berths and a couple of key departments to its ally,” said another BJP leader.
The BJP-Sena alliance, which first came to power in 1995, had an inverted power equation then. Sena had won 73 seats to the BJP’s 65, “but since the difference was small, the ministries were divided almost equally,” the BJP leader said. “Now, we have almost double the Sena tally. We may exchange some departments by giving them a few significant portfolios, but an equal sharing seems difficult.”
Other BJP insiders, who also spoke to HT on condition of anonymity, said they would wait for the BJP leadership to reach out to the Sena, while the latter insists that the agreement will be finalised only after a meeting between BJP president Amit Shah and Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray. Shah is expected to come to Mumbai to announce a finalised deal, but it is unlikely that he will arrive in the city on Wednesday, given Tuesday’s developments.
However, BJP said it will send Union minister Narendra Singh Tomar and party vice-president Avinash Rai Khanna as central observers for the meeting on Wednesday to elect the leader of the legislative party.