AMID THE continuing uncertainty over government formation in Maharashtra, state BJP leaders will meet Governor Bhagat Singh Koshyari on Thursday, in what appears to be a bid to force a breakthrough in talks with uncooperative ally Shiv Sena.
State BJP president Chandrakant Patil and Finance Minister Sudhir Mungantiwar will call on the Governor to convey the party’s decision to elect Devendra Fadnavis as its legislative leader and the chief ministerial candidate, sources said.
Though 15 Sena leaders, who are ministers in the outgoing government, met Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis on Wednesday, ostensibly for a meeting of district guardian ministers to discuss the prevailing farm crisis due to the unseasonal rainfall post monsoon, there was no indication from the party’s top leadership that there had been a thaw.
Instead, a senior Sena leader said there was “no change” in the party’s demand for 50:50 share of power, including for the post of the chief minister, and the deadlock will not end until the BJP agrees to this.
“Uddhavji is firm on his stance. Negotiations can start if the BJP is ready to honour what it had promised to us. Otherwise, there is no point in the talks. The deadlock may end if the BJP agrees to Sena chief’s demand or it may not even end,” said a Sena leader, adding that the leadership seems to be ready to let the BJP form the government without its support.
“Party leadership has considered all probabilities, including sitting in Opposition. Uddhavji will take a final call,” the leader said.
Mungantiwar, however, said there would be “good news” within the next 48 hours. “Being the single largest party with 105 MLAs, it is our duty to apprise the Governor of the political developments. There is absolutely no ambiguity in the BJP about forming a coalition government with ally Shiv Sena.” A formal decision on the alliance will be known soon, he added.
The BJP’s decision to meet the Governor was taken at the party’s core committee meeting held at Fadnavis’ residence Varsha, soon after Sena ministers and leaders, including new legislative party leader Eknath Shinde, met the CM on Wednesday.
A senior BJP leader, who was present at the meeting, said that Sena leaders asked the BJP to take steps to pacify their party leadership. “The BJP dismissing Sena’s 50:50 formula has hurt Uddhav Thackeray. They want BJP to do some damage control so that Sena is not perceived as having lied to the public about the equal power sharing formula.”
However, BJP leaders are asking why Sena had agreed to contest a lesser number of seats if it was so determined to take a 50:50 share of power. While Sena had contested 124 seats in the October 21 polls, BJP contested 164.
“Now, when the results show BJP ahead with 105 seats, compared to Sena’s 56, how does the 50:50 formula make sense?” asked a leader, pointing out how the BJP had given Sena the driving seat in the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC). “We gave the reins of the Rs 37,000-crore BMC to the Sena though BJP with 82 corporators was just two short of Sena’s tally.”
The BJP leaders also told Sena that it was willing to accommodate its larger concerns — from additional Cabinet berths in the Fadnavis government to an upper hand in the 2021 BMC polls.
In case the stalemate continues, BJP is mulling its options. Ideally, the new government should be in place by November 9, when the term of the current Assembly ends. If there is no breakthrough by then, the BJP believes Fadnavis can continue to head a caretaker government for about 15 days, thus getting more time for government formation.
The BJP is also prepared to form the government with its 105 MLAs, but would need to win a floor test quickly thereafter. Sources in the BJP said this would require all the party’s skills.