AFTER a day-long political drama which ended with Shiv Sena failing to get Congress-NCP support for a possible coalition government in Maharashtra, Governor Bhagat Singh Koshyari invited Sharad Pawar’s NCP to show its willingness to form the government by 8.30 pm Tuesday.
Earlier, the BJP, the single-largest party with 105 seats, and invited first by the Governor, expressed its unwillingness to stake claim for government formation. Shiv Sena, the second largest party with 56 seats, was invited next, but it could also not show support for its claim by Monday 7.30 pm, the deadline set by Raj Bhavan.
“As the NCP is the third largest party, the Governor has asked us about our willingness to form the next government. We have told him that we would need to consult with our alliance partner and that we will get back to him as soon as possible,” Maharashtra NCP State President Jayant Patil said. NCP won 54 seats in the Assembly elections, results for which were declared on October 24.
While NCP will continue talks with alliance partner Congress (fourth largest party with 44 seats) and explore the possibility of government formation, senior party sources admitted it would be difficult to convince the Congress leadership to go along with the Sena before Tuesday 8.30 pm, indicating the state was headed towards a President rule.
Sharad Pawar reached out to Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray late in the night informing him about the call from the Governor to the NCP. “We have been given a mandate to sit in Opposition, but we also have a responsibility of giving a stable government to the state at this time,” said Ajit Pawar, NCP’s Leader of the Legislative Wing, and nephew of Sharad Pawar.
Pawar said that his party was waiting for a formal letter of support from the Congress. He also said NCP would reach out to Shiv Sena. “We will have a discussion with Uddhav Thackeray as well before we go to the Governor,” Ajit said.
NCP and Congress fought the Assembly elections in alliance and together hold 98 seats, still 47 less to cross the half way mark and prove majority. The party would need Sena’s support to take a shot at forming the government.
Through the day, there were expectations within the Congress state leadership that Congress President Sonia Gandhi may yield to the sense of its MLAs herded in a Jaipur resort who were keen to share power with Sena and NCP in the state. The NCP’s core committee too met during the day in Mumbai. “We are willing to form an alternate government and we had a discussion on this regard in our core committe meeting. We are, however, waiting for a decision to be made by our alliance partner Congress,” NCP spokersperson Nawab Malik said after the meeting.
Meanwhile, the Congress Working Committee which met in the morning, held discussions with state leaders later in the evening. Sharad Pawar too had a conversation with Congress President Sonia Gandhi at about 6 pm. Finally, the Congress issued a statement, which did not mention anything about support to Sena, but said the party would continue talks with the NCP.
Pawar’s impressive election campaign has set the stage for NCP’s resurgence in Maharashtra. There has been a vocal section within the party that believes returning to power in Maharashtra was essential to not only to rebuild the party but also keep its flock together. Senior leaders of the party will meet in Mumbai on Tuesday morning to review the evolving political situation. While Pawar did reach out to Sena late evening, it is not clear if Thackeray would support NCP’s bid for government formation.