Sharad Pawar meets Uddhav Thackeray in Mumbai hotel, not Matoshree
Shiv Sena boss Uddhav Thackeray on Monday drove out of Matoshree, his family home in Mumbai’s Bandra, to meet Nationalist Congress Party president Sharad Pawar at a luxury hotel 7 km away after the NCP veered in favour of supporting a Sena-led coalition government in Maharashtra.
Sharad Pawar has been in touch with the Shiv Sena over the past fortnight, mostly via Sena’s Sanjay Raut who has thrice visited Pawar at his south Mumbai residence. Monday’s 40-minute power meeting between Maharashtra’s two top leaders, Sharad Pawar and Uddhav Thackeray, was held on neutral ground, Taj Lands End Hotel. It was quite a drive for Sharad Pawar also. Thackeray’s meeting at any location outside Matoshree - Sena’s seat of power ever since Bal Thackeray founded the party in 1966 - is extremely rare and is seen to indicate some flexibility on the Sena’s part to get the deal through.
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Sharad Pawar’s party hasn’t announced its support yet and is waiting for its pre-poll ally, the Congress to formalise its stand later in the evening. The only announcement that came out of the Congress’ big meet in national capital Delhi was that it needed to hold a second one to consult its Maharashtra leaders at 4 pm.
The Congress, despite a certain discomfort over supporting the Shiv Sena over their ideological differences, was open to the idea of working with Uddhav Thackeray’s party, people familiar with the developments said. But it hasn’t made up its mind on whether it should join the government or extend outside support.
The Sena, the second largest party with 56 lawmakers after the BJP’s 105, was given 24 hours by Governor Bhagat Singh Koshyari to respond to an invitation to stake claim to form the government on Sunday. That deadline expires at 7.30 pm.
Uddhav Thackeray wants the NCP and the Congress to join the government that his party hopes to form under a Sena chief minister. The Sena had made the demand for a shot at the chief minister’s chair a prestige issue, particularly after the BJP’s Devendra Fadnavis contradicted his assertions that there was a pre-poll pact between them to share power.