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Monday, Nov 18, 2019

16 days after election results, Maharashtra Governor invites BJP to form government

mumbai Updated: Nov 10, 2019 00:27 IST
Ketaki Ghoge
Ketaki Ghoge

Maharashtra Governor Bhagat Singh Koshyari on Saturday asked caretaker chief minister Devendra Fadnavis, as the leader of Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) – the single-largest party with 105 seats in the 288-member Assembly, to indicate “willingness and ability” to form the government in the state. The Governor’s invitation to BJP came hours before the five-year tenure of the Assembly ends on Saturday midnight and a day after Fadnavis resigned as chief minister.

BJP so far has not made a formal decision on whether it will stake claim to form the government, as it did not have a clear majority of 145 seats. It has claimed support of 15 Independent legislators, but the party will still need another 25 legislators to form the government on its own.

“The Governor of Maharashtra Shri Bhagat Singh Koshyari today asked the leader of elected members of the single largest party, the Bharatiya Janata Party, Shri Devendra Fadnavis to indicate the willingness and ability of his party to form the government in Maharashtra,” said the communication from the Governor’s office.

BJP is likely to decide on the future course of action on Sunday. “We will decide the next step on whether to stake claim or not during our core team meeting on Sunday. After the meeting, we will also consult our national leaders. The Governor’s invitation was as per the laid down constitutional process,” said BJP leader Sudhir Mungantiwar.

Despite a bitter showdown between BJP and its ally Shiv Sena over sharing the chief minister’s post, Mungantiwar said a BJP-Sena government was still the “only viable option in the current political scenario” in the state.

“There is no other option. The natural mandate is for BJP and Sena. There cannot be a Congress chief minister with its 44 legislators being supported by Sena and vice-versa. Congress has made it clear that they can’t go with Sena,” said Mungantiwar, adding that BJP was 24x7 open for discussions even now with Sena.

The Sena had not reacted to the Governor’s invitation to BJP till late on Saturday. But, Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray, during his press conference earlier in the day, had said: “The government will be formed. There is no worry.”

The Sena had earlier said the Governor should invite the single-largest party, BJP, to stake claim. Senior Sena leaders, Sanjay Raut and Ramdas Kadam, had conveyed this to the Governor during their meeting with him on November 4. According to leader, who did not wish to be named, the party will adopt a “wait-and-watch approach” and see what happens after the core committee meeting of BJP. Thackeray, the leader said, had already made it clear that BJP will have to call them with an offer that includes sharing the CM post and nothing less.

Meanwhile, Mungantiwar said, as per constitutional provisions, if parties fail to form a government, President’s Rule could be imposed in Maharashtra. “In such a scenario, it can take even six months to a year to form the next government,” he said.

There is uncertainty over whether BJP will stake claim and seek time to prove majority in the House, or decline the Governor’s invitation. However, many BJP leaders are still hopeful of stitching an alliance with Sena and eventually forming the government with their three-decade-old ally.

“Backchannel talks with Sena are still on. We are confident that we can still form the government. The decision over staking claim to form government or otherwise will be taken on Sunday,” said a BJP leader, on condition of anonymity.

Fadnavis had on Friday said BJP will not form the government by breaking other parties or indulging in horse trading.

Sena and Congress, however, have already taken steps to protect their MLAs from being poached. While Sena MLAs have been kept in a resort at Madh Island, Congress MLAs have been taken to Jaipur. The NCP, meanwhile, has declared that all three parties would come together to defeat the candidate, who defects to BJP.

NCP spokesperson Nawab Malik said this process to form the government has been delayed and Governor should examine whether BJP really had the numbers to prove majority to avoid horse trading. “If BJP forms the government then NCP will vote against it on the floor of the Assembly. If Sena also votes against BJP and this government falls, then NCP can take a call about participating in the next government formation,” said Malik.

The NCP has called a meeting of its MLAs in Mumbai on Tuesday.