‘Why stay?’: Shiv Sena’s Arvind Sawant exits from Union cabinet as ties with BJP worsen

Hindustan Times, Mumbai | By
Jul 21, 2020 01:56 AM IST

Arvind Sawant’s resignation came a day after BJP gave up efforts to form a government in Maharashtra. Governor Bhagat Singh Koshyari has asked Sena, which has 56 seats in the 288-member assembly, to indicate its ability to form a government by Monday evening.

Shiv Sena’s lone minister at the Centre quit the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government on Monday a day after the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) said that it was open to supporting his party to form the government in Maharashtra if it quit the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led coalition.

Shiv Sena MP Arvind Sawant quit as Union minister on Monday.(File Photo)
Shiv Sena MP Arvind Sawant quit as Union minister on Monday.(File Photo)

Arvind Sawant, the minister, said that Shiv Sena has sided with the truth. “In such a false environment, why should we stay in government in Delhi? That’s why I am resigning from the Union council of ministers,’’ he tweeted.

The NCP offered the conditional support on a day the BJP gave up its efforts to form the government in the state citing the Sena’s “insult to the mandate”.

 Also Watch | ‘Sena insulted mandate’: BJP tells Maharashtra Governor it can’t form govt

Governor Bhagat Singh Koshyari had on Saturday asked the BJP to indicate its “willingness and ability” to form the government in the state as the single-largest party.

The BJP wished “good luck” to its oldest and pre-poll ally if the Sena wanted to form the government with NCP and the Congress’s help. Koshyari later asked the Sena to indicate by Monday evening its ability to form the government.

The BJP has been at loggerheads with the Sena over power sharing since it emerged as the single largest party in the state assembly on October 24 with 105 seats. The Sena, which has 56 seats, has insisted that the two parties had agreed to share the chief minister’s post under a “50-50” power-sharing formula before the April-May national polls.

The BJP has maintained that no such formula has been finalised and triggered a war of words between the two parties. The two parties together won 161 seats in the 288-member assembly. A party or an alliance requires 145 seats for a majority in the House. The Congress has 44 seats and NCP 54.

Also read | A 50:50 power-sharing formula that split allies BJP, Shiv Sena in Maharashtra

The NCP on Sunday said that it will support the Sena if it finalises a common minimum programme besides leaving the NDA. Sena leader Sanjay Raut on Sunday said that the party’s chief, Uddhav Thackeray, has told his lawmakers that they will have their chief minister.

The Congress, which has shifted its lawmakers to Rajasthan, has said that the party does not want President’s Rule in the state.

Sawant maintained that a seat and power-sharing formula was decided upon before the national elections and that both parties had accepted it. “Now, rejecting the formula and treating the Sena as liars, it is not only shocking, it is an insult to Maharashtra’s self-esteem. This is the limit of lying, and BJP has taken this reprehensible stand in Maharashtra,” he tweeted.

Hours after Sawant’s announcement, Raut said that there was no point in continuing the alliance if the BJP was unwilling to fulfill its promise of sharing the chief minister’s post.

Raut confirmed that Thackeray has asked Sawant to resign. “If the BJP has taken such a stand in Maharashtra then why should we stay at the Centre for one post.”

Raut blamed the BJP’s “arrogance” for the current political situation in Maharashtra. He added that it was now for the NCP and Congress to “walk the talk” on keeping the BJP out of power.

“I heard statements of BJP leaders blaming the Shiv Sena for not being able to form the government. It is wrong. The BJP is ready to sit in the opposition but does not intend to give Sena what was promised. It is their arrogance. It is an insult of people of Maharashtra,” said Raut.

The Sena has sought a letter of support from the NCP and Congress to stake claim to form the government, according to the people aware of the developments. It was racing against time to have the numbers to do so.

Raut said that the BJP got 72 hours for the purpose but the Sena just 24 hours. “Had we got more time to arrange the numbers, it would have been better. We are not complaining. We will work to give a stable government to Maharashtra till the last moment,” he said.

He said that all parties need to forget their differences and work on a common minimum programme. “The chief minister in Maharashtra will be from the Shiv Sena.”

The BJP and Shiv Sena fought the October 2014 assembly elections separately before forming a coalition government in Maharashtra.

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    Swapnil Rawal is Principal Correspondent with the Hindustan Times. He covers urban development and infrastructure. He had long stints with leading national dailies and has experience of over a decade in journalism.

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