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Tuesday, Nov 19, 2019

BJP hopeful of Maharashtra truce, Shiv Sena adamant

Maharashtra CM Fadnavis dialled Shiv Sena leader Uddhav Thackeray at least twice after results of the assembly election in the state was declared on October 24, but there is ‘no reciprocation from the other side’, a senior BJP leader said.

india Updated: Nov 06, 2019 00:18 IST
Ketaki Ghoge, Swapnil Rawal and Surendra Gangan
Ketaki Ghoge, Swapnil Rawal and Surendra Gangan
Hindustan Times, Mumbai
BJP said it was confident that a saffron alliance led by chief minister Devendra Fadnavis would soon form the government
BJP said it was confident that a saffron alliance led by chief minister Devendra Fadnavis would soon form the government(HT Photo)
         

The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) got into damage-control mode on Tuesday, amid speculation that its ally, Shiv Sena, could stake claim to form the next government in Maharashtra with support from the Opposition, Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) and Congress.

The BJP, which is the single largest party with 105 seats, requested the Sena to renew their power-sharing discussions, but also said it had not yet received any formal proposal from the latter. The party, however, said it was confident that a saffron alliance led by chief minister Devendra Fadnavis would soon form the government.

Meanwhile, in what could be a positive development for the BJP, a senior Congress leader, who did not wish to be named, said party president Sonia Gandhi, in her meeting with Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) chief Sharad Pawar on Monday, disapproved the idea of supporting a Sena-led government.

The BJP, however, which has been in a bind over Sena’s non-cooperation and silence over the matter since Diwali, indicated that the offer to hold talks did not mean the CM’s post was up for grabs. Maharashtra CM Fadnavis dialled Shiv Sena leader Uddhav Thackeray at least twice after results of the assembly election in the state was declared on October 24, but there is “no reciprocation from the other side”, a senior BJP leader said.

“Fadnavis called Thackeray on the result day and on Diwali, but there is no similar reciprocation,” this leader quoted above said requesting anonymity. “We are disappointed with their response. We cannot bow in front of them beyond a point to form government.”

Chandrakant Patil, revenue minister and the BJP’s state chief, said, “We held a meeting of the BJP’s state core committee led by Fadnavis. We have assessed the political scenario in the state. We believe this mandate was for the saffron alliance and respecting the people’s wishes, we will form the government together. We have so far not got any proposal from the Sena and our doors are open 24x7 to consider their proposal and hold discussions.”

Patil, however, clarified that the Mahayuti (grand alliance of BJP, Sena and other smaller parties) “will be formed under the leadership of Fadnavis”. “BJP’s parliamentary panel elected him as our leader unanimously. We back him completely,” he said.

But the Sena did not share the BJP’s confidence. Party chief Thackeray, who is still touring the state, did not comment on the issue. Sena MP and Saamana editor, Sanjay Raut, who is speaking on behalf of the party, said his party’s proposal was the same —50:50 power-sharing formula, including splitting the CM’s post and tenure — that was decided ahead of the Lok Sabha polls.

“How can they say that there was no proposal from Sena? Whatever was decided before the Lok Sabha elections is the proposal. Act on that, this is the one-line proposal. We do not think there is any need for a separate proposal...,” Raut said.

He also demanded that the BJP leadership should give them a written assurance on rotational chief ministership in the state. He also said that BJP has shown “understanding” if they were willing to discuss rotational CM.

Amid the standoff, Fadnavis travelled to Nagpur on Tuesday night to meet RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat. Fadnavis held closed-door discussions with Bhagwat and RSS general secretary Bhaiyyaji Joshi for over 45 minutes on the present political situation in the state, according to people aware of the developments.

Meanwhile, BJP leaders, on condition of anonymity, said the party, as part of its revised power-sharing formula, was willing to split all ministerial berths 50:50, barring the CM’s post, with the Sena. BJP, the leaders said, is also willing to concede important portfolios — except home — like PWD, agriculture, revenue or finance to its ally.

The leaders said the party is also mulling of sending a senior central leader to meet Thackeray at Matoshree on Wednesday. While BJP president and Union home minister Amit Shah has stayed away from the talks, Union minister Nitin Gadkari may be asked to mediate.

State finance minister Sudhir Mungantiwar said: “There are no buts and ifs. Our saffron alliance government is coming to power. You will hear of good news any time now.’’

The stalemate began after Fadnavis’s statement to the media on Diwali last Tuesday that sharing the CM’s post was never offered to the Sena had irked Thackeray. The Sena chief in response had cancelled the joint meeting of the allies and had not responded to the CM since then.

When asked specifically about the BJP’s willingness to share the CM’s post, party leaders indicated that it was not willing to relinquish the top post.

“Fadnavis will be our CM for the entire five-year tenure. We have won 105 seats, nearly double than the Sena. But, that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t talk. We are willing to discuss their grouses over what CM said or what was agreed and our differences, among others. Sena should respect the clear mandate of the people for our alliance and talk to us,’’ said senior BJP leader and core committee member Girish Mahajan, seen to be close to Fadnavis. Senior party leaders, however, admitted that things would get difficult if Sena did not come around in the next two days. “Next two days will be crucial for us. If Sena does not talk to us, we will be forced to stake claim by ourselves and bid time again to get them around.’’

The BJP, however, remained hopeful that deadlock will end. “A good news regarding government formation can come at any moment,” Maharashtra finance minister and senior BJP leader Mungantiwar said.