Sena softens stand; Fadnavis says saffron alliance govt soon
Shiv Sena leader Sanjay Raut said there was no hurry to form the next government and rejected speculation that the Shiv Sena may split if there was a delay in formation of the new Council of Ministers.
The two other major political players, the Congress and the NCP, clearly said they will sit in opposition, nixing any chances of a non-BJP government coming to power in the state, where contours of the next dispensation remain hazy even a week after announcement of assembly poll results.
The day started with Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis being re-elected the state BJP legislature party leader.
In an apparent climbdown, Shiv Sena leader Sanjay Raut said it is necessary for the party to stay in the BJP-led alliance in the larger interest of Maharashtra, but without compromising on "respect".
"Individuals are not important but state's interest is important. Decisions need to be taken in a calm manner and keeping in mind the state's interest," the Rajya Sabha MP said.
The Uddhav Thackeray-led party has been aggressively pushing for rotational chief ministership and 50:50 power- sharing formula, demands rejected by the BJP.
Raut said his party only wants implementation of what was decided between the two allies before the October 21 assembly polls.
To a question on whether the Shiv Sena was adamant on implementing the 50:50 formula (equal share in power), Raut said, "You (the media) are saying this. We only want things to be done according to what has been decided earlier."
About re-election of Fadnavis as leader of the BJP legislature party, Raut said, "Those who have support of 145 MLAs (in a house of 288) will be the chief minister and it is our duty to welcome him."
Asked about reports that the BJP has offered deputy chief minister's post and 13 portfolios to the Sena, Raut evaded a direct reply and said "We are not sitting with account books."
Raut, the executive editor of Sena mouthpiece 'Saamana', has been vociferously articulating the party's demands for equal share in power and the chief minister's post on a rotational basis.
Amid the ongoing tussle between his party BJP and the Sena over power-sharing, Fadnavis asserted that the alliance partners will "soon" form the government in the state.
He dubbed the rumours of 'alternate formulae' being worked out to form the state government as "entertainment".
"The mandate of voters of Maharashtra is for the 'Mahayuti' (BJP-Sena alliance). Hence the 'Mahayuti' is going to form its government soon in the state," Fadnavis said, addressing the newly-elected BJP MLAs at the legislature party meeting.
"Though there are several rumours floating around in the state about alternate formulae being worked out to form the government, it is more of an entertainment," he quipped.
Fadnavis pointed out that after 1995, no party in the state won more than 75 seats in polls to the 288-member Assembly, but the BJP bagged 122 seats in 2014 and 105 in the just-concluded elections.
Ever since poll results on October 24, Sena president Thackeray has been claiming that the 50:50 formula on sharing of power was "agreed upon" between himself, BJP president Amit Shah and Fadnavis ahead of the April-May Lok Sabha elections.
However, Fadnavis on Tuesday denied that the Sena was ever assured the chief minister's post for two-and-a-half years as part of the power-sharing "formula".
The BJP has been insisting that Fadnavis will continue as the chief minister for the next five years.
A BJP minister recited the opening lines of a popular Hindi film song to highlight the "strange bond" between the two saffron parties.
Finance minister Sudhir Mungantiwar said the 'Mahayuti' (grand alliance) of BJP, Sena and other parties will form the next government in the state.
"Tere mere beech mein, kaisa hai yeh bandhan anjaana, maine nahi jaana, tune nahi jaana (What kind of strange bond is this between us, I don't know about it, you don't know about it)," Mungantiwar said, reciting the opening lines of a song from the 1981 Hindi romantic tragedy Ek Duuje Ke Liye.
Meanwhile, the Congress and the NCP appeared reconciled to spending the next five years in opposition.
The Congress on Wednesday ruled out any possibility of aligning with the Shiv Sena in forming the next government in Maharashtra.
Interestingly, former chief minister Prithviraj Chavan had on Tuesday said the Congress will "consider" any "concrete" proposal on government formation from the Sena.
Talking to reporters, AICC general secretary incharge of Maharashtra Mallikarjun Kharge said there was no question of aligning with the Sena in government formation.
"The mandate for the Congress is to function as an opposition party," he said.
Besides Kharge, other Congress leaders like Balasaheb Thorat, Sushilkumar Shinde and Ashok Chavan also made it clear that the party has nothing to do with the Shiv Sena.
Speaking separately, Maharashtra NCP chief Jayant Patil said his party and its ally Congress will sit in the opposition as mandated by people.
"We have been asked to sit in the opposition by the people and we will discharge that duty," Patil said.
Senior NCP leader Ajit Pawar said his party will highlight "mistakes" committed by the government.
"We will keep a tab if the government is working in the right direction. We will ensure there is no injustice meted to any section of the society on the government's watch," Pawar said, implying the NCP will sit in the opposition.
On Tuesday, NCP chief spokesperson Nawab Malik said the formation of an alternative government can be given a thought in case the BJP fails to prove its numbers on the floor of the state Assembly.
Earlier in the day, Ajit Pawar was unanimously re- elected as the legislature party leader of the NCP at the meeting of the newly-elected MLAs here.
Newly-elected MLAs of the Shiv Sena will elect the legislature party leader on Thursday.
A meeting for this purpose will be held at the Sena Bhavan in central Mumbai, a party leader said on Wednesday.
In the recent state polls, the BJP won 105 seats, a loss of 17 seats compared to its 2014 tally.
The Sena's tally also came down to 56 seats from 63 in 2014. A resurgent NCP won 54 and the Congress bagged 44 seats.