The Maharashtra unit of the Congress on Tuesday made it clear that its priority was stopping the BJP from coming to power in the state.
Congress state president Balasaheb Thorat reiterated that the party has not received any proposal from the Shiv Sena. “As of now, we can’t comment on whether we will support the Sena. But yes, our stand regarding stopping the BJP from coming to power is quite clear,” he said.
Speaking to The Indian Express after a delegation of Congress and NCP leaders met Maharashtra Governor Bhagat Singh Koshyari in Mumbai on Tuesday, Thorat said though the leaders did not discuss the political situation with the Governor, NCP leader Ajit Pawar urged Koshyari to install a government in the state as soon as possible.
The delegation also discussed the damage caused by the unseasonal rain to standing crops across the state and demanded immediate assistance for farmers.
Meanwhile, former chief minister Prithviraj Chavan told The Indian Express on Tuesday that the state Congress had apprised party president Sonia Gandhi on the current political situation vis-a-vis extending support to the Shiv Sena.
Asked whether the Congress was in favour of supporting the Sena in case it staked claim to form the government, Chavan said, “To keep the BJP out of power, the Congress will make every effort… We will have to make efforts, especially when BJP is going after Congress-NCP leaders and indulging in vindictive politics. We will have to respond to their attempts to corner us, otherwise we will be failing in our duty…”
“The party president has asked to take a decision as the situation develops,” he said.
Besides Chavan, other state Congress leaders like Hussain Dalwai, Manikrao Thakare and Thorat himself are in favour of supporting the Sena, said sources.
Dalwai has even written a letter to Sonia Gandhi on extending support to the Sena, citing earlier instances when the Sena had supported the Congress. “Be it during the 1980 elections or support to Congress candidate Pratibha Patil for the President’s post, the Sena has stood by the Congress and even defied its alliance partner, the BJP,” he said.
Sena leader Sanjay Raut has said he has been holding backchannel discussions with Congress and NCP leaders. “In fact, I have held a discussion with NCP chief Sharad Pawar regarding the current situation. There is nothing to hide in this…,” he said.
Congress leaders said even if they don’t extend outside support, they might abstain from voting if the numbers were in favour of the Sena. “The BJP is talking about Congress-mukt-Bharat and is going after our leaders. It is sending our leaders to jail and not even allowing them to seek bail. Therefore, we can’t remain mere spectators. We will have to give a befitting rely,” said a senior Congress leader.