BJP retreats, leaves Sena with a shot at forming Maharashtra governmentUpdated: Nov 11, 2019 07:42 IST
Maharashtra Governor Bhagat Singh Koshyari invited the Shiv Sena on Sunday evening to form the government after the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) refused to stake claim to power earlier in the day. Shiv Sena, with 56 legislators, is the second-largest party in the state after BJP, which won 105 seats in the Assembly elections held in October.
A communique from Raj Bhavan said, “The Governor of Maharashtra, Shri Bhagat Singh Koshyari today asked the leader of elected members of the second largest party, the Shiv Sena, Eknath Shinde to indicate the willingness and ability of his party to form the government.” The Sena has until 7.30 pm on Monday to stake claim.
To be sure, the Sena alone cannot form the government, and it will need the support of the Nationalist Congress Party (54 seats) and the Indian National Congress (44 seats) to prove its majority in the 288-member house.
Together, the three parties have 154 seats. The Congress and NCP have claimed the support of 16 more legislators – independents and smaller allies – taking their tally to 170, comfortably above the half-way mark of 145.
Soon after the Governor’s invitation, the NCP said it will support a Sena-led government only if the latter walks out of the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA). It demanded that Sena’s lone representative in the Union cabinet – Arvind Sawant – resign from Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s council of ministers.
NCP spokesperson Nawab Malik said that the three parties should arrive at a common minimum programme before joining hands to form the government.
Senior Congress leader Ashok Chavan said his party does not want President’s rule in Maharashtra. “It is a crisis-like situation in the state. We are discussing the political scenario and will take a decision after speaking to the party high command,” he said.
Rajya Sabha MP and Sena spokesperson Sanjay Raut said on Sunday that the Sena will install its chief minister in Maharashtra. “I reiterate that our party chief Uddhav Thackerayji has said that Maharashtra will get a chief minister from Shiv Sena, and we will have one at all costs.”
The party said that it had not initiated formal power-sharing talks with NCP and Congress. Raut and NCP chief Sharad Pawar, however, have had several meetings for nearly a fortnight.
Thackeray will have to get written support of both NCP and BJP to get a go-ahead by the Governor to form the government. Raut is likely to visit Delhi tomorrow to meet senior Congress leaders.
Earlier on a fast-moving political Sunday, the BJP held two core committee meetings – with party president Amit Shah joining via video conference from New Delhi – before announcing at 6.05 pm that it will not stake claim to form the government. In a terse statement to the media, state BJP chief Chandrakant Patil blamed the Sena for his party’s inability to form the government. “We contested the elections as Mahayuti (grand alliance) and we got the people’s mandate. The Sena is not willing to partner with us. Hence we cannot form the next government. We have conveyed this to the governor.” He added, “If Shiv Sena wants to insult the mandate given to us and form the government with Congress and Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) then we wish them all the best.”
Caretaker Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis and the party’s core committee members, including state party president Chandrakant Paril, Maharashtra in-charge Bhupendra Yadav, Sudhir Mungantiwar, Pankaja Munde, Ashish Shelar, Vinod Tawde and Girish Mahajan met the governor.
Later on Sunday, Pawar held an hour-long meeting with his colleague Praful Patel in Mumbai. However, after the meeting, Patel said, “The people’s mandate is not with us, and there is no question of forming the government.”
Earlier on Sunday morning, Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray met party legislators who have been holed up for a couple of days at a hotel at Madh Island in north Mumbai. He was accompanied by his wife Rashmi. A Sena legislator told HT, “He told us I have carried the palanquin enough for other people. This time, I will ensure a Shiv Sainik sits on it.”
After receiving the Governor’s invitation, Thackeray and senior Sena leaders went into a huddle at his residence Matoshree in Bandra East. Sena legislators backed Thackeray, and urged him to not bow before the BJP as they have “suffered enough humiliation over the last five years.” Thackeray’s son and Yuva Sena chief Aaditya Thackeray has been staying with party legislators at the hotel from midnight on Saturday and did not accompany his parents back home.
Raut indicated on Sunday that Congress was not a pariah for the Sena, despite their ideological differences. “The Congress – right from (former chief ministers) Yashwantrao Chavan to Sharad Pawar – has done commendable work for the state. We may have differences with them, but we have differences with the BJP as well,” he said.
Congress leaders held a high-level meeting again on Sunday evening in Jaipur, Rajasthan in the backdrop of developments in the state. Most of the party legislators said they are in favour of supporting the government, while some even wanted to participate in the government. Senior Congress leader and Rajasthan chief minister Ashok Gehlot and All India Congress Committee general secretary and Maharashtra in-charge Mallikarjun Kharge attended the meetings, while senior party leader Ahmed Patel has been kept in the loop about developments.
“The state unit’s opinion and views will be conveyed to the party president Sonia Gandhi who is expected to take a final call on party’s role in the formation of the government,” a party leader told HT. “Congress will react only after Shiv Sena and NCP take a firm stand.”