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Saturday, Dec 07, 2019

Sena, NCP, Congress mull common minimum programme, policies

mumbai Updated: Nov 13, 2019 00:20 IST
HT Correspondents
HT Correspondents

A day after Shiv Sena was embarrassed by Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) and Congress after they did not give it letters of support for its claim to form the Maharashtra government, the three parties on Tuesday said they are discussing if and how they may still form a government.

NCP chief Sharad Pawar and senior Congress leader Ahmed Patel said the two parties would discuss the pros and cons of forming a government with the Uddhav Thackeray-led party and then take a decision on supporting it.

“We need to clarify certain things and also discuss a common minimum programme before taking a decision [on support to Sena],”said Patel, after meeting Pawar and other NCP leaders. He said the two parties got a proposal from the Sena to form a government with it only on Monday and would need to discuss the same with each other first.

“We won’t go ahead unless we are clear about what would be the policies and programmes of the government,” said Pawar.

Soon after this, Thackeray for the first time spoke about the option of forming the government with NCP and Congress.

“If politics is going in a new direction, if something is starting, then we should wait and see,” he told the media after meeting party MLAs who are lodged in a retreat in north Mumbai. “Congress, NCP and we have different points. We will bring those together, discuss and see if we can find a way,” he said.

Asked how the Sena, Congress, NCP who have different ideologies will work together, Thackeray referred to BJP’s alliances in Jammu and Kashmir, Bihar and Andhra Pradesh.

“We will see how parties of different ideologies can come together, like BJP went with Mufti Mohammad, Nitish Kumar and Chandrababu Naidu,” he said.

Thackeray, however, chose not to comment when asked if the developments in past two days mean the Sena has snapped ties with the BJP.

On the delay over the decision by the Congress-NCP he said: “Forming a government is not child’s play. It will have to be a stable government. Even we have some issues to discuss (with Congress-NCP) and that’s why we had sought more time from the Governor,”he said.

The Sena chief also taunted Governor Bhagat Singh Koshyari for not giving his party enough time to prove majority eventually to form a government.

In the Assembly polls, Shiv Sena won 56 seats, followed by 54 by NCP and Congress’s 44. Together, they have 154 seats, which is more than the simple majority figure of 145. BJP, the single-largest party, has 105 members and there are 29 independents and members of smaller parties.

Congress willing to join the government?

Earlier in the day, it became clear that Congress was willing to support a Sena-led government in Maharashtra—something that the party had not made clear on Monday. Congress interim president Sonia Gandhi deputed Patel and two other senior leaders Mallikarjun Kharge and KC Venugopal to hold discussions on the issue.

According to leaders from both parties, Congress and NCP want a proper common minimum programme (CMP) and a power-sharing pact with Sena before forming the government. If the Sena agrees to the same, the two parties will announce their support to a Sena-led government.

“We need to have a common minimum programme in place. Maybe it is difficult to resolve all these things by today evening. President’s rule could be imposed but that doesn’t matter if we get the majority figure. It can be resolved,” said senior NCP leader Ajit Pawar earlier in the day.

A close aide of party chief Sharad Pawar said: “Forming government is easy, but running it is a real challenge. As such Pawar has insisted on a proper power-sharing pact, which will include how many ministerial berths each partner in coalition will have, which departments will go to whom, who will get the posts of speaker and deputy speaker of the Assembly and what would be the mechanism if there is a dispute over any issue. This will need time.”

Congress and NCP have run three coalition governments in the state since 1999 and every time, they had a proper power-sharing pact beforehand, he pointed out.

Pawar aides say their leader has made it clear that the party will first discuss details of power sharing with Congress since the two parties have contested elections together. After that, there would be talks with Sena in which representatives from all three parties would participate. If they agree, a decision on forming government will be taken, an announcement will be made and Congress-NCP leaders will accompany Sena to the Governor to stake claim.

Leaders from both parties expect that the discussions between the three parties would take at a few days.

The Congress top brass is also seriously considering the option to join the government due to immense pressure by party legislators in Maharashtra who are wary about NCP becoming stronger than the Congress if they stay out of power. NCP is also insisting that Congress should be part of the government to make it stable.

BJP’s Operation Lotus in Maharashtra too?

Meanwhile, with President’s rule imposed in Maharashtra and the Congress-NCP in no rush to support the Sena-led government, there is indication that the BJP may embark on Operation Lotus in Maharashtra on the lines of Karnataka to get the requisite numbers to prove their majority.

A senior BJP leader had told HT on Monday that in case of President’s rule the party would tap into Sena as well as Congress legislators to bolster its support.

The party won 105 seats and is around 40 legislators short of reaching the majority mark of 145 seats in the 288-member House. It will not just try to win over most of the 29 independent legislators, but also win over legislators from other parties.

“I met Devendra Fadnavis today and he told me that we should try to form our government. We will do whatever possible to form the government. I will assist my party in this process. I don’t think Sena can go with Congress-NCP. They (Sena) are being fooled,’’ said former CM and BJP leader Narayan Rane.

“We are keeping a close watch on the political developments in the state. So far, Congress-NCP have not given their support to Sena or even met Sena leaders. We discussed all these developments in detail,’’ said senior BJP leader Sudhir Mungantiwar.

On the other hand, party insiders also said that some leaders from both BJP and Sena are trying to see if there is any scope for reconciliation.

Efforts were also being made to get Thackeray and Fadnavis to talk to each other over phone, but they had not succeeded till late on Tuesday.