Days after the Assembly elections returned the BJP with a weaker tally, ally Shiv Sena continued to pile on the pressure, with party president Uddhav Thackeray telling his legislators that the Sena would settle for nothing less than the Chief Minister’s post.
In his first meeting with the party’s newly elected legislators at his Matoshree residence on Saturday, Thackeray is reported to have said that the Sena is aiming to hold the CM chair for half of the government’s five-year term and that if the BJP doesn’t relent to its demand, the Sena could explore other options. The BJP won 105 seats and the Sena 56 in the just concluded elections.
“Uddhavji has said that his discussion with BJP chief Amit Shah and Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis was about equal power-sharing and sharing the Chief Minister’s post by rotation for two-and-a-half years. The equal seat-sharing could not happen due to unavoidable reasons. Now, for us, equal power-sharing and the CM post is important. The Deputy CM post is secondary for us,” said Pratap Sarnaik, a Sena legislator from Thane.
The Sena’s tough bargaining
The Shiv Sena and BJP came together under pressure to counter the NCP-Congress alliance for the election. With the BJP doing worse than expected, the Sena is determined to get its pound of flesh in the new government. The BJP believes the Sena has no claim to CMship, and is using “pressure tactics” to extract plum portfolios.
The Sena legislators also passed a resolution authorising the Sena chief to take all decisions on government formation. The legislators have claimed that the ball now lies in the BJP’s court and that the party needed to come up with an equitable and honourbale power-sharing agreement.
“Any further decision will be taken after the BJP gives us in writing about what was decided in the equal power-sharing formula. Now, we have given all powers to party chief Uddhavji. His decision will be acceptable to us,” Sarnaik added.
The BJP, however, refused to cede any ground, with a senior party functionary saying there is “no question of giving CM post to Sena”. “In politics, every party has the right to stake higher power share. But formulae are always based on numbers. The BJP with 105 seats is way ahead of the Shiv Sena’s 56 seats. Moreover, 17 Independents and rebels who are former BJP candidates will add to our overall strength, taking the tally upward of 122 seats. The formal formula will be decided once both sides sit for discussions,” he said.
Others in the BJP called the Sena’s demand “posturing” and said the Sena was doing so to get a better deal for itself during the allocation of portfolios.
Speaking about what transpired in the meeting with Thackeray, Abdul Sattar, Sena MLA from Sillod in Aurangabad, said, “The Sena chief said he doesn’t want anything more than what was decided. He wants the alliance to form the government while accepting the equal power-sharing formula. He said if this doesn’t happen, then other options are open for the Sena.” Sarnaik too confirmed that Thackeray spoke of “other options” for the Sena.
On Thursday, immediately after the results were announced, Thackeray had reminded the BJP about the power-sharing formula. “We all know that when the alliance was forged before the Lok Sabha polls, the 50:50 formula was decided. There is no need to hide it now. It was also decided that the seat-sharing would be 144-144. BJP state president Chandrakant Patil had then said I should understand the BJP’s problems in seat sharing. I understood their problems and accepted a smaller share of seats. But if their problems are going to increase, then I can’t understand all their problems,” Thackeray had said.
However, the Sena chief had indicated on Thursday that he would not take the support of the Congress-NCP to form the government. “I’m not in a hurry. I am not greedy for power and won’t accept anything wrong for power,” he had said.
Sena legislators also demanded that Aaditya should be made Chief Minister. “Party workers have expressed their opinion that Aaditya should be CM,” said Bhaskar Jadhav, Sena legislator from Guhagar.
Outside Matoshree, Sena workers had put a banner calling for Aaditya Thackeray as Chief Minister of the state. “CM Maharashtra only Aaditya saheb Thackeray,” the banner read.