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Maha-gathbandhan moves closer, Uddhav Thackeray set to become Chief Minister

NCP chief Sharad Pawar announces consensus on Shiv Sena chief as Maharashtra Chief Minister; Uddhav Thackeray says other issues being sorted out.

Written by Zeeshan Shaikh , Sandeep A Ashar | Mumbai |
Updated: November 23, 2019 6:51:35 am
Maha-gathbandhan moves closer, Uddhav Thackeray set to become Chief Minister Shiv Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray after the meeting with NCP and Congress, in Mumbai on Friday. (Express Photo: Nirmal Harindran)

A month after the Maharashtra Assembly elections, and ten days after imposition of President’s Rule following an impasse over government formation, rivals NCP, Congress and Shiv Sena reached a consensus Friday evening that Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray will be the new Chief Minister of the state, heading a government of their alliance.

A formal announcement on government formation and the power-sharing agreement between the three parties is awaited amid indications of a tussle between the Congress and NCP for the Assembly Speaker’s post. Sources said talks over this new sticking point have been deferred to Saturday.

NCP chief Sharad Pawar, emerging from a meeting of the three parties, said a consensus had been reached on Uddhav Thackeray for the top post. “As far as the Chief Minister’s post goes, there is consensus between the three parties that Uddhav Thackeray will lead the government,” he said.

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“Discussions on other issues are still ongoing. Once all modalities are finalised, you will be told,” Pawar told newspersons, indicating that the allies may hold a joint press conference Saturday.

Thackeray, on his part, said talks to finalise other details were still on. “The meeting was constructive. Most things have been sorted out. There are, however, some discussions on minor issues. The way things are going, these issues will be sorted out too. We will come out with details soon,” he said.

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Shiv Sena leader Sanjay Raut, who was also present at the meeting, told The Indian Express it was Pawar who proposed that Thackeray should lead the government of the new alliance. “Uddhavji accepted the proposal,” Raut said.

A senior Congress leader, referring to the deliberations with the NCP in Delhi earlier this week, said “we were given to understand that the Speaker’s position would be with us”. Countering this, an NCP negotiator, also present at the meeting Friday, pointed out that the Congress had the least number of seats among the three parties.

Emerging from the meeting, senior Congress leader Ahmed Patel said: “Talks were inconclusive. We are meeting again tomorrow.” NCP leader Praful Patel said: “On many issues we have had a positive discussion. There are some issues left on which talks will be held tomorrow.”

Moves on government formation gained momentum Thursday after Congress president Sonia Gandhi showed the green light for an alliance with the NCP and Shiv Sena.

Sena looks to induct aggressive faces who can hold their own against Cong, NCP bigwigs

In the Maharashtra House of 288 members, the BJP has 105, Shiv Sena 56, NCP 54 and Congress 44 MLAs. The Sena parted ways with the BJP after insisting on rotation of the CM post.

During Friday’s meeting, sources said, there was some disagreement between the three sides over the power-sharing formula, but it was eventually resolved. It is learnt that under the agreement, the Shiv Sena will get 15 portfolios including the Chief Minister’s post.

The NCP, with has two seats less than the Sena, has agreed to soften its demand for CM-by-rotation, at least for now. Sources said the NCP is likely to be offered 15 ministerial berths. There is agreement, sources said, on letting the NCP take the key Home portfolio. It is also likely to be offered the Cooperatives department.

The Congress is expected to be offered a total of 13 ministerial berths. Revenue, Rural Development and Energy are the portfolios that may go the Congress way, sources said.

The Shiv Sena is expected to keep Urban Development, Finance, Public Works Department and Agriculture.

Sources said an understanding has also been reached on control over state-run corporations. The Congress and NCP will head equal number of corporations while the Shiv Sena will have two more, sources said.

NCP chief Sharad Pawar on Friday. (Express Photo: Nirmal Harindran)

Throughout Friday, intense deliberations were on within the parties. The joint Congress-NCP-Shiv Sena meeting took place at the Nehru Sports Complex in Worli and was attended, among others, by Uddhav Thackeray, Pawar and senior Congress leader Ahmed Patel.

In the morning, Thackeray had called a meeting of his party legislators at his residence Matoshree in Bandra (East). “All legislators demanded that he be the Chief Minister. We had already given him the power to decide on it,” said Pratap Sarnaik, Sena legislator from Thane.

Earlier in the day, Sanjay Raut told mediapersons that there would be Sena CM for five years. “There will be a Shiv Sena CM for five years and all three parties have agreed on it. If other parties are giving any offer now, the time is over for them. Maharashtra will get a strong government,” he said.

The Congress also convened a meeting of its legislators in the Vidhan Bhavan where Maharashtra Congress president Vijay (Balasaheb) Thorat was said to have indicated that the alliance was planning to stake claim to form the government within the next two days. The Congress and the NCP MLAs have been asked to stay put in Mumbai for the next two days.

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