AWARE that the Congress leadership was yet to warm up to the idea of backing a government formed by the Shiv Sena, it was NCP president Sharad Pawar who Monday advised Shiv Sena president Uddhav Thackeray to buy more time from Governor Bhagat Singh Koshyari to submit the requisite letter of support to show its ability to form a government in Maharashtra.
Thackeray had met Pawar at Bandra’s Taj Lands End hotel Monday afternoon to discuss government formation after NCP’s core committee meeting had indicated its willingness to join hands with the Shiv Sena (SS) for forming the government, provided ally Congress also went along with the decision.
A senior former NCP minister, who was present at the hotel, said, “The Governor had sought written support from at least 145 MLAs to be produced as a letter of support. This would have been impossible to collect before Monday’s 7.30 pm deadline set for the Sena, given that the Congress leadership was yet to decide whether it would back such a formation or not. That’s why Pawar saheb suggested that Thackeray should seek an extension from the Governor,” the minister said.
While a delegation of Sena leaders, comprising party’s legislative party leader Eknath Shinde and Aaditya Thackeray, visited the Governor to seek an extension, the latter rejected it.
According to information, Pawar and Thackeray had also discussed modalities of government formation at the meeting. Sources said Pawar had been keen that the Congress should join a Sena-NCP government to lend it stability. While Congress did not turn it down, it did not extend any letter of support, foiling Sena’s bid for now. Senior sources also said Congress president Sonia Gandhi had a long telephonic conversation with Pawar around 6 pm, where the proposal to back a SS-led formation was discussed. With Gandhi and some other leaders of the Congress Working Committee not entirely convinced about the plan to prop up the SS for a non-BJP formation in Maharashtra, Gandhi reportedly sought to know from Pawar whether the NCP had already committed support in writing to the SS. After Pawar informed that he had been awaiting Congress’s decision, she bought more time for further discussion.