Sena, NCP, Cong begin talks for power-sharing
A day after three parties — Shiv Sena, Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) and Congress — indicated they are willing to form the government in Maharashtra together, they began deliberations on a common minimum programme (CMP) on Wednesday. The CMP will state the agenda of the proposed government and the power-sharing structure.
The development came after the state was plunged into a political crisis on Tuesday, with President’s rule being imposed following a recommendation from Governor Bhagat Singh Koshyari. No political party — Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) (105 seats), Shiv Sena (56), NCP(54) and Congress (44) — was in a position to form a government, Koshyari had written to the Central government, preparing the ground for the 288-member House to be placed in “suspended animation”. Sena, NCP and Congress are looking at a common agenda focused on tackling farm crisis and unemployment in the state. The deliberations between the three sides are expected to continue for the next few days before they arrive at a decision to form the government.
The process started with a late-night meeting between Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray and senior Congress leader Ahmed Patel on Tuesday in which the two sides deliberated a quick formulation of a CMP, among other things. NCP chief Sharad Pawar met senior party leaders to chalk out the next course of action. Senior NCP leader Ajit Pawar said talks were moving in the right direction.
Meanwhile, Congress and Sena decided to let their newly- elected MLAs return to their constituencies. Congress MLAs who were in a resort near Jaipur returned to the city on Wednesday. Sena has also told its MLAs, lodged at a suburban resort, to go back to their constituencies.
BJP national president and Union home minister Amit Shah broke his silence on the political crisis and hit out at Sena. Speaking to news agency ANI, Shah questioned the Sena on why it did not object to Devendra Fadnavis being projected as the chief minister before elections.
“…Before the elections Prime Minister Narendra Modi and I said many times in public that if our alliance wins, then Devendra Fadnavis will be the chief minister. No one objected back then. Now they [Shiv Sena] have come up with new demands, which are not acceptable to us,” Shah said.
He also defended Koshyari’s decision to recommend President’s rule saying the latter had given sufficient time after the results were announced and even now if any party or parties have the majority, they could approach the Governor to form the government.
A senior Sena leader refused to comment and said Thackeray will respond to it. “He (Amit Shah) took nearly 20 days to speak up on the matter. Even if he thought this was a new demand, he should have taken interest in resolving the issue,” a party leader said.
On Wednesday afternoon, senior Congress leaders including Maharashtra Congress chief Balasaheb Thorat, former chief minister Ashok Chavan, and former state Congress chief Manikrao Thakre met Thackeray at a city hotel and outlined the CMP and discussed their party’s demands in lieu of support.
Thackeray and Patel had set the tone for the former’s meeting with Patel’s colleagues in Maharashtra. Sena functionaries said the two leaders discussed the formulation of a CMP and a power-sharing pact during their 45-minute discussion.
According to a Sena leader, Ahmed conveyed the Congress and NCP’s in-principle decision to lend support to the Sena to lead the government.
“During discussion, the two leaders agreed that the CMP has to be finalised soon. The Congress is also seeking equal portfolios as it would be part of the government,” said a party functionary.
Patel, who met Thackeray post-midnight, reportedly told him about the Congress’s reservations over Sena’s ideologies. Patel clarified to the Sena chief that his party was participating in the government and expects equal share in the cabinet with other two parties.
“It has been clarified that although we have fewer MLAs than the other two parties, Congress would not compromise on sharing of ministerial berths. We are not insisting on sharing the post of chief minister, but would definitely want equal share in plum portfolios too. We are expecting 14 ministerial berths to be shared by three parties each. NCP may get one more berth if it compromises on the post of chief minister,” said a senior Congress leader, requesting anonymity.
As Thackeray emerged from his meeting with the Congress leaders on Wednesday afternoon, he said the talks had started and were moving on a positive track. “The talks have started in the right direction. It will be announced to everyone at an appropriate time,” Thackeray told reporters as he stepped out of Hotel Trident in BKC on Wednesday afternoon.
According to a Sena functionary, the meeting between Thackeray and Congress leaders was positive and the Congress showed “intent to form the government”.
Thorat said the talks are on the right track and they want them to be finalised at the earliest.
Sena MP Sanjay Raut, however, denied that Thackeray discussed government formation details with Ahmed Patel, but added that talks with Congress and NCP are in process. “Rumours being floated that Shiv Sena president Uddhav Thackeray met Ahmed Patel and we have come to some sort of settlement. On behalf of Uddhav Thackeray, let me clarify that this is untrue & being deliberately spread. Our talks with Congress and NCP are in process,” he tweeted late on Wednesday.
On the other hand, Congress and NCP too started deliberations to finalise the CMP.
NCP’s Ajit Pawar said that the Congress and NCP being allies will discuss CMP and sharing of important positions between them and then start discussion with the Sena. The Congress and NCP constituted a five-member committee independently to discuss the power-sharing formula and CMP before coming together to form a coalition government in the state.
The Congress committee comprises Balasaheb Thorat, Ashok Chavan, Prithviraj Chavan, Vijay Wadettiwar and Manikrao Thakre, while the NCP committee includes Ajit Pawar, Jayant Patil, Chhagan Bhujbal, Dhananjay Munde and Nawab Malik. The NCP has also formed another committee, which will discuss issues with the leadership of both Congress and Sena. It comprises Sharad Pawar, Praful Patel and Sunil Tatkare.
The two sides began discussions at a south Mumbai hotel late on Wednesday.
Earlier in the day, the NCP also held a meeting of all its 54 legislators at YB Chavan Centre in south Mumbai. This is the second meeting called by the party in the past two days.