TO KEEP its flock together while it drives a hard bargain with ally BJP over government formation in Maharashtra, the Shiv Sena Thursday herded all its legislators into Rang Sharda, a three-star hotel in suburban Mumbai, less than four kilometres from the party headquarters.
While Sena said it would not accept anything less than the Chief Minister’s post as a precondition to government formation, party chief Uddhav Thackeray retained space for reconciliation and said he did not want to break the pre-poll alliance.
The BJP, meanwhile, called on the Governor to apprise him of the political situation following the Assembly elections in which no party secured enough seats to form a government on its own. It has been two weeks since the results.
In its editorial, the Sena mouthpiece Saamna indirectly accused the BJP of poaching newly-elected MLAs to form the new government. “Those who don’t have anything to do with BJP or Hindutva are contacting the newly-elected MLAs and are using the language of thaily (bag). These complaints are rising.”
While Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis remained at his official residence Varsha and met BJP MLAs and other party leaders, state BJP president Chandrakant Patil met Governor Bhagat Singh Koshyari at Raj Bhawan.
In the absence of support from its pre-poll alliance partner, the BJP appears to be exercising caution. Despite being the single largest party with 105 MLAs in the 288-strong Assembly, it did not stake claim to form the government.
After meeting the Governor, Patil said: “We met the Governor to brief him about the political developments since the formation of government was taking longer than normal. Various legal and constitutional implications were discussed. We informed the Governor that the election results showed people have given mandate for the formation of a BJP-Shiv Sena government.”
State Advocate General Ashutosh Kumbhakoni also met the Governor shortly after the BJP leaders. An official in Raj Bhawan said, “The Governor was consulting legal and constitutional experts following political developments in state.”
A senior Sena MLA, who was present at Thackeray’s meeting with legislators at his residence Matoshree, said, “Uddhavji said he wants BJP to accept what has been decided before the Lok Sabha polls. He put the onus of keeping the alliance on the BJP, and asked BJP to honour the words given or break the alliance.”
Uddhav simultaneously held out a threat to BJP and said if it formed the government without Sena, it would be the end of the saffron alliance. A Sena leader told The Indian Express: “We will defeat the BJP’s Speaker candidate on the floor of the House.”
Another legislator said there was no change in the party chief’s stand. “He is firm on getting the CM post for a Sena nominee. He is ready to talk with BJP only if it is ready to share the CM post for two-and-half years. Uddhavji told us if he had wanted to accept anything less than CM, he would not have wasted 15 days,” he said.
“We have given all powers to Uddhavji to take a call on talks with BJP or to form government or to explore other options or to sit in Opposition,” said Abdul Sattar, a Sena legislator from Sillod in Aurangabad. All legislators were told to stay at Rang Sharada Hotel in Bandra (West) till further orders and there was no threat of any legislator defecting, he said.
Addressing the media after Thackeray’s meeting with legislators, Sena leader and MP Sanjay Raut reiterated Maharashtra would have a Sena CM. “We have alternatives and numbers as well. But the BJP should first announce that it is unable to form the government. Then Sena will think about the next move,” he said.
Raut also slammed BJP minister Sudhir Mungantiwar’s statement that Fadnavis is a Shiv Sainik and he will be Sena CM. “A Shiv Sainik never lies and keeps his word. A Shiv Sainik never backstabs anyone,” he said.
— (With inputs from Shubhangi Khapre)