NCP’s Ajit Pawar gets a message from Shiv Sena amid Maharashtra impasse
The Sena leader has said in his weekly column in his party’s mouthpiece ‘Saamana’ claimed that if the BJP doesn’t take it onboard the regional party will stake claim to form the government.Updated: Nov 03, 2019 18:43 IST
Senior Shiv Sena leader Sanjay Raut on Sunday contacted the NCP’s Ajit Pawar after the Uddhav Thackeray-led party said talks with ally Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) over government formation in Maharashtra will only focus on the issue of chief minister’s post.
The Sena leader has said in his weekly column in his party’s mouthpiece ‘Saamana’ claimed that if the BJP doesn’t take it onboard the regional party will stake claim to form the government.
Raut also compared the deadlock to a “chariot stuck in the mud of arrogance”.
“Being the second-largest party, the Shiv Sena will claim to form the government after BJP fails to prove majority. Our tally will reach 170 with the help of NCP, Congress and others,” Raut said in the editorial.
Ajit Pawar, who is also the Nationalist Congress Party chief’s nephew, showed reporters the message from Raut which read “Namaskar mi Sanjay Raut. Jai Maharashtra”.
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“I have received a message from Sanjay Raut a while ago. I was in a meeting so didn’t respond. I don’t know why he has messaged. Since the results, this is the first time he has messaged me. I will call him in a while and talk to him,” Ajit Pawar told reporters in the afternoon.
The message from Sanjay Raut to Ajit Pawar also comes ahead of NCP president Sharad Pawar’s meeting with Congress chief Sonia Gandhi in New Delhi on Monday.
The BJP and Shiv Sena have been locked in a bitter tussle over sharing power after they were re-elected in the October 21 state elections.
The Sena had started the negotiations by demanding that the BJP stick to a 50-50 power-sharing formula the two parties had reportedly decided in February this year. The BJP’s Devendra Fadnavis has said there was no such decision to share the chief minister’s post in the state.
The BJP won 105 seats and the Sena bagged 56 in the 288-member assembly. The NCP has 54 seats while its alliance partner Congress has 44. The halfway mark is 145.
The NCP on its part has been saying that it would sit in the opposition and on Sunday Ajit Pawar reiterated his party’s stand.
On Raut’s comment that his party would soon have its chief minister with the support of “170 MLAs”, Pawar said he did not know how the Sena leader had reached that calculation.
“The Congress-NCP and other allies have a strength of 110 seats (which includes Congress’ 44 and NCP’s 54). And we have the mandate to be in the opposition,” Pawar said.
He also rubbished speculation that Sharad Pawar was in the race for the post of Maharashtra chief minister.
However, Sharad Pawar held a closed-door meeting on Saturday with his party leaders in Mumbai to explore an alternate possibility of forming the government with Sena.
A senior NCP leader, who did not wish to be named, said Pawar is looking at the option of an NCP-Sena government with outside support from Congress.
Congress leaders from Maharashtra had met Gandhi on Friday and suggested that the party support any move to keep BJP out of power if Sena is willing to form the government with NCP.
“State Congress leaders had met Pawarsaheb last week and urged him to take initiative for a non-BJP government in the state,” said the NCP leader.
“Pawar had asked them to get a nod from their party leadership first. We have started talking to all non-BJP elements. However, an alternate government is possible if Uddhav Thackeray is willing to walk out of his alliance with BJP. We are looking at all possibilities.”
However, a senior BJP leader, on condition of anonymity, said an informal communication between the two sides is likely to resume after the weekend, when chief minister Devendra Fadnavis and Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray return to Mumbai after touring villages affected by unseasonal rain in Vidarbha and Marathwada respectively.
“The Sena has not responded to BJP since Tuesday [the day Fadnavis said BJP had never promised CM post to Sena]. They are trying to drive a hard bargain. We think backchannel talks between Fadnavis and Thackeray will resume in a day or two. We don’t think Sena chief will trust Pawar and opt for a minority government,” the leader said.
On Saturday, BJP minister Sudhir Mungantiwar said the issues between BJP and Sena would be resolved through talks and the next saffron government will be sworn in next week. He ruled out a Sena-Congress government, pointing to the ideological chasm between the two parties.
“How can Congress and Sena form government together? They are ideologically opposed to each other. And, NCP chief Sharad Pawar has clarified that his party will sit in the Opposition. This mandate is for the saffron alliance and we will form a government together, latest by November 6 or 7,” said Mungantiwar.
Sena, however, did not accept the olive branch offered by its ally. Raut, however, reiterated that his party was in no mood to take back the demand for the chief minister’s post.
The Saamana editorial on Saturday had slammed the BJP for allegedly threatening newly-elected legislators with the President’s Rule, referring to Mungantiwar’s statement on Friday that if the saffron allies failed to form the government within a time frame, the President’s Rule would have to be imposed.
“The statement is an insult to the people’s mandate in the Assembly elections.” said the editorial.
Mungantiwar denied that his statement was a threat, pointing out that it was a straight response to a question asked by the media about what would happen in absence of a new government after November 8, when the tenure of the incumbent government ends.