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Maharashtra govt formation: Horse-trading bid unlikely, prefer fresh elections, say BJP leaders

Sources in the BJP said the only possibility of Maharashtra getting a government now is if the three other main parties — the Shiv Sena, the NCP and the Congress — come together.

Written by Liz Mathew , Shubhangi Khapre | New Delhi/mumbai | Updated: November 13, 2019 7:08:50 am
Maharashtra govt formation: Horse-trading bid unlikely, prefer fresh elections, say BJP leaders The absence of Congress-NCP combine’s categorical commitment of support to Sena has come as a fresh lease of life to the BJP.

While Opposition parties on Tuesday criticised Governor Bhagat Singh Koshyari’s decision to recommend President’s Rule, with some leaders suspecting that this could facilitate horse-trading, BJP leaders said the party is not likely to take any initiative to form the government unless the Shiv Sena approaches it. BJP leaders also said the party is not averse to re-election in the state.

Sources in the BJP said the only possibility of Maharashtra getting a government now is if the three other main parties — the Shiv Sena, the NCP and the Congress — come together. But, they added, chances of such an alliance coming to fruition is rare.

“If the Sena does not get support from (NCP chief) Sharad Pawar and (Congress president) Sonia Gandhi, the BJP is ready to go for elections,” a senior party leader said.

The absence of Congress-NCP combine’s categorical commitment of support to Sena has come as a fresh lease of life to the BJP. While deciding not to rush, the party instead plans to give Sena, Congress and NCP time to exhaust all possible options among themselves before it explores the possibility of forming a government.

The BJP has called a meeting of all its 105 MLAs and office-bearers to discuss its future course of action on Thursday. At a meeting of its core committee on Tuesday, the party gave a clear signal that it would not adopt any non-conventional route for government formation. Senior leader Sudhir Mungantiwar said, “The party is very closely monitoring all the developments. It is our firm resolve to see that Maharashtra has a stable government.”

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BJP MP Narayan Rane said they would soon be able to form a government for which efforts are underway. “The Congress-NCP are making a fool of Shiv Sena president Uddhav Thackeray,” he claimed.

Party insiders claimed that a section of Sena legislators was reaching out to the BJP. “Some Sena MLAs are calling BJP leaders to broker peace,” said one leader.

While Uddhav Thackeray is looking for a favourable deal with Congress and NCP, the message from within the BJP is that it is keeping all options open. Flagging “critical issues” such as the hardship being faced by farmers due to unseasonal rain, and how instability could affect investments in the state, former chief minister Devendra Fadnavis on Tuesday said all these would eventually affect the well-being of the people. “Therefore, it is my ardent appeal that all parties should seriously consider these developments and work towards giving a stable government,” he added.

Sources said the Sena’s criticism of Prime Minister Narendra Modi did not go down well with the party’s leaders, and the “bitterness created by the Sena” and comments of party chief Uddhav Thackeray could be a big hurdle for the ideological allies to get back to friendly terms.

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Sources insisted that horse-trading will not be an option for BJP in Maharashtra since the party does not want to break any of the three other parties to form a government. They said a snap poll could be a better option, as the party has assessed that political developments since the results emerged on October 24 have gone in their favour among the electorate.

BJP leaders are drawing a parallel to the fast-changing political developments in Maharashtra to that of Bihar in 2005, when Ram Vilas Paswan’s Lok Janshakti Party (LJP), with 29 seats in the Vidhan Sabha polls, had emerged the kingmaker. But the party’s ambivalence in backing any of the bigger parties for government formation led to a snap poll in which Paswan’s party faced a major electoral setback. BJP leaders see a similarity in Paswan’s actions then with Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray’s now.

After the 2005 Bihar elections, the three major parties – Lalu Prasad’s RJD, which won 75 seats in the 243-member House, Nitish Kumar’s JD(U), with 55 MLAs, and the BJP (37) – had approached the LJP, formed by Paswan after breaking away from JD(U) in 2000, to get the required numbers. But Paswan declared that there should be a Muslim chief minister, and that inflexible stand led to imposition of President’s rule. The Assembly was dissolved after JD(U) managed to break the LJP and tried to form a government with defectors. Fresh elections were announced within eight months.

In the elections held in October, LJP was reduced to 10 MLAs.

A BJP leader from Bihar said that unlike LJP, the Sena may not be broken easily since it is a cadre-based party, but Thackeray’s party will find it difficult to “justify its action to the electorate, and will face the consequences”.

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