Pre-poll allies BJP, Shiv Sena trade barbs as post-poll confusion continues
Raut’s warning comes just hours after he met Nationalist Congress Party chief Sharad Pawar at his house on Thursday evening.Updated: Nov 02, 2019 02:12 IST
The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) warned on Friday that Maharashtra may head for President’s rule if a new government isn’t in place by November 7 — the deadline for formation of the new government is November 8 — even as its pre-poll ally, the Shiv Sena, said it would be able to muster the numbers for an alternative coalition to rule the state if its demand that the two partners split all positions, including the chief minister’s, equally isn’t met.
The BJP and its oldest ally seemed to harden their positions on Friday, eight days after the results were declared.
“A new government will have to be in place within the stipulated time, or else the President will have to intervene. President’s rule will be imposed,” BJP leader and finance minister in the outgoing government Sudhir Mungantiwar said.
The BJP has insisted that chief minister Devendra Fadnavis will head the government for a second term, denying the Sena’s claim that it agreed, in talks before the April-May general elections, to sharing the post between the two allies during the five-year term, with each party holding the post for two-and-half years. The Shiv Sena is adamant about sharing not just this post but also other cabinet posts and responsibilities as part of what it terms a “50-50 formula”.
“If the Shiv Sena decides, it’ll get the required numbers to form a stable government in the state,” senior party leader Sanjay Raut told reporters on Friday.
Raut dared the BJP to go ahead and form a government if it had the numbers. “The mandate was for the alliance; why didn’t they come forward to discuss [government formation] on the day results were announced?” he asked.
The BJP emerged as the single largest party in the 288-member assembly with 105 seats. The Sena won 56 seats, the Nationalist Congress Party, 54, and the Congress, 44. A party needs 145 MLAs to achieve a simple majority in the assembly.
Raut’s remarks seemed to hint at the possibility of the Sena forming government with the backing of the Congress and the NCP. However, while there’s been a lot of talk of “options” by leaders of the Congress and the NCP, none have yet gone on record with an open statement of support for the Sena.
Raut met NCP chief Sharad Pawar at his house on Thursday; he later told reporters that he had gone to extend belated Diwali wishes to Pawar, but added that they did discuss “the politics in Maharashtra”.That meeting, followed up by Friday’s warning, was seen as an effort to counter the BJP narrative that the Shiv Sena would eventually come around and agree to form government with the BJP.
“People have given the mandate to form the government on basis of 50-50 formula that was reached in front of people of Maharashtra.They want chief minister from Shiv Sena. There will be a Shiv Sena chief minister,” Raut said.
Political analyst Prakash Bal said Friday’s statement by Raut seemed to be a pressure tactic. “It is unlikely that the Shiv Sena will go with the Congress-NCP to form the government... It will be an unstable government. Also, Sharad Pawar is not likely to support a Sena-led government. We will have to wait and see how the BJP reacts to it,” Bal said.
NCP leader Ajit Pawar said late on Thursday that the people of the state had asked his party to sit in the Opposition, as reflected in the election results, and it will do so. Senior state Congress leaders were in Delhi on Friday to apprise the party leadership of the political situation in Maharashtra.
State unit chief Balasaheb Thorat said there was political instability in the state and blamed the BJP for it. “Our stand now is wait and watch,” Thorat said.
To be sure, the BJP did leave room for an eventual compromise with the Sena.
“People of Maharashtra have given the mandate not to any party but to the Mahayuti (alliance comprising BJP, Shiv Sena and other parties),” Mugantiwar said. “Out alliance is stronger than Fevicol or Ambuja Cement,” he added, riffing off advertising lines for an adhesive and a cement brand.
“We are willing to take the initiative and start the talks to end this impasse. This is just a small hurdle. The mandate is for both of us. It would be unfortunate if we can’t form the government by November 8,” he said. “It would be unfortunate if we let oneupmanship derail the talks.”
A senior BJP leader in New Delhi said the party is looking forward to the swearing-in of Fadnavis as the chief minister by the middle of next week. “We expect the Sena to be on board by Sunday or Monday,” this leader said.
There is no immediate plan for BJP president and home minister Amit Shah to travel to Mumbai, this leader added, but admitted that Shah could travel to the city and engage with the Sena if Fadnavis fails to close negotiations with Shiv Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray.
“We are at work and hope to form government,” a second BJP leader, who asked not to be named, said.