Soon after receiving a formal expression from the BJP of its unwillingness to form the government in Maharashtra, Governor Bhagat Singh Koshyari on Sunday evening invited the Shiv Sena, and gave it time until Monday evening to inform him if it could form the government.
On a day of rapid developments, Shiv Sena leaders said party chief Uddhav Thackeray and NCP chief Sharad Pawar spoke after the Sena received the Governor’s invitiation.
“The two leaders spoke after the Governor’s invite. The party is likely to stake claim for government formation tomorrow,” a senior leader told The Indian Express. The leader, who declined to be named, said the Governor had given the Sena time until 7.30 pm on Monday to respond.
Sources said that Shiv Sena MP Sanjay Raut was likely to leave for Delhi to meet with Congress leaders. Sources in the Sena said that party chief Uddhav Thackeray was likely to be nominated chief minister. On Sunday, there were posters outside his home Matoshree saying: “It is the need of Maharashtra that Shiv Sena Chief Uddhav Thackeray should become Chief Minister.”
The invitation to the Sena, the second largest party in the Assembly, came after BJP leaders led by caretaker Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis met the Governor at 5.30 pm and and turned down his invitation citing the lack of numbers.
The Sena, the BJP’s pre-poll ally, has refused to budge from its demand for a half-share of the Chief Minister’s post, and has been exploring other options to form the government.
State BJP president Chandrakant Patil told reporters at Raj Bhawan: “The state Assembly elections 2019 mandate was for Mahauti comprising BJP, Shiv Sena, Republican Party of India, Rashtriya Samaj Party, Rayat Kranti, Shiv Sangram. As the Shiv Sena has not agreed to government formation, we have taken the decision not to insult the mandate given by the people. Therefore, we have declined the Governor’s invitation to form the government.”
Patil added: “It appears the Shiv Sena is keen on forming the government with Congress-NCP. Our best wishes to Shiv Sena.”
Soon after this, Raut went into a huddle with the Sena leader at Matoshree. “If Uddhav Thackeray has said there will be a Shiv Sena Chief Minister in Maharashtra, then there will be Sena CM in any case,” he said after the meeting.
Earlier in the day, before the BJP leaders met the Governor and declined the invitation to form the government, Thackeray addressed party legislators who have been put up at a hotel in Madh Island in Mumbai’s Malad (West), and reiterated that there would be a Sena Chief Minister.
“Thackeray said that we have carried the palanquin enough for other people. This time, he will ensure that a Shiv Sainik sits inside the palanquin,” said an MLA who was at the meeting.
In the 288-member Assembly, the BJP has 105 legislators. The Shiv Sena has 56, and has been managed to get the support of eight Independents, taking its tally to 64. The NCP and Congress have 54 and 44 members respectively. If the Sena, NCP, and Congress come together, their tally will reach 162, well above the halfway mark of 144.
Earlier in the day, in an apparent outreach, Raut said that the Congress was not an enemy of Maharashtra. “We might have differences on some issues. Everyone has differences on some issues. We also had different opinions with regard to certain decisions taken by the BJP at the Centre,” Raut said.