Shiv Sena MP Sanjay Raut said he would meet the Maharashtra Governor on Monday. “I will ask him to invite the single largest party and then give a chance to other parties,” Raut told The Indian Express, adding that there would be a Sena CM and the oath-taking ceremony would take place at Shivaji Park in Mumbai.
The action is also set to move to Delhi, with incumbent Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis travelling to the Capital on Monday to meet BJP chief and Home Minister Amit Shah. This will be his first visit to Delhi since the election results, which gave the BJP fewer seats than it expected.
Monday will see a meeting between NCP chief Sharad Pawar and Congress president Sonia Gandhi in Delhi as well.
Asked by mediapersons in Aurangabad if the Sena would form the government alone or join other parties, Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray Sunday said, “You will get to know in the coming days.”
In his column Rok Thok, published in Sena mouthpiece Saamana Sunday, Raut put forward several scenarios of government formation, in none of which a BJP-led one endured. “After the BJP fails to prove its majority in the House, the Shiv Sena can stake claim to form the government. With the help of the NCP, Congress and others, the figure will go up to 170. The Shiv Sena can have its own Chief Minister,” he wrote. The BJP and Sena together won 161 seats in the recent elections. The half-way mark in the 288-seat House is 145.
Saamna also carried a front page story Sunday, headlined ‘At any cost, there should be no BJP government’, which said the Congress and NCP had taken a decision to keep the BJP out of power.
At a press conference Sunday morning at his residence in Mumbai, Raut, who is considered Thackeray’s right-hand man, wondered why BJP president Shah, who had resolved the issue of government formation in Haryana, seemed to be keeping away from Maharashtra. (Both the states saw Assembly elections together.)
Fadnavis told reporters he was going to Delhi to seek relief for farmers hit by unseasonal rains from the National Disaster Response Fund, which falls under Shah’s ministry. However, sources said, the CM would discuss with the BJP chief strategies to bring the Sena on board, with delay in government formation stretching embarrassingly.
In backchannel talks, Fadnavis has indicated to the Sena his willingness to consider Thackeray’s demand for equal division of ministerial portfolios. Thackeray has additionally demanded two ministerial berths at the Centre, as well as governorships in two states.
BJP sources in Delhi said the party is confident a BJP-Sena government would be in place by this week, under Fadnavis.
Admitting that the Sena, NCP and Congress were parties with different ideologies, Raut wrote in his column, “The way Atal Bihari Vajyapee ran his government, we will have to take it forward… This is in the interest of Maharashtra.”
Among Raut’s options for government formation in the state, the first is the BJP coming to power keeping the Sena out. “The BJP has 105 MLAs. It requires 40 more… Getting 40 more is looking impossible…,” he wrote.
The second option, the MP said, was the NCP supporting the BJP. “In this scenario, Supriya Sule will become a minister at the Centre and Ajit Pawar in the state. (But) Pawar has received success in the elections for the NCP’s anti-BJP stance….”
In another option, Raut said, the BJP and Sena might form a government. “For this to happen, both will have to take four steps back. They will have to consider the Shiv Sena’s demands, will have to divide the chief minister’s tenure. This is the best alternative. But because of ‘ego’, it will not come into effect.”
The fourth scenario, as per Raut, was the BJP using the Enforcement Directorate (ED), police and money to trigger defections. “It will have to give ministership to an ED representative. However… voters have shown such people their place. In all this, Modi’s image will be in tatters,” Raut wrote.
At his press conference, the Sena leader said “Operation Lotus” (implying bid to engineer defections) would not work in Maharashtra. “Even gangsters don’t resort to such tactics.”
In another development Sunday, NCP leader Ajit Pawar showed reporters a text message from Raut on his phone. The message in Marathi simply said, “Namaskar mi Sanjay Raut. Jai Maharashtra”. “This means I should call him. I will call and check,” Ajit Pawar said.
Sharad Pawar’s meeting with Sonia comes amidst increasing clamour within the NCP that it and the Congress align with the Sena to keep the BJP out. However, NCP and Congress seniors are wary that the Sena’s outreach is no more than a ploy to drive a harder bargain with the BJP.
A senior NCP functionary said, “Pawar has set his new target as regaining the organisation’s lost grounds in zilla parishad polls next year. Any attempt to join hands with the Sena will prove detrimental.” The Congress and NCP are also wary of hobnobbing with the Sena as the Ayodhya verdict nears, a point raised by Congress leader Sanjay Nirupam on Sunday.