The impasse between the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and Shiv Sena in Maharashtra continued for the 14th day on Thursday as statements made by leaders from both parties further fuelled only confusion and speculation, instead of clarity, on a possible resolution to the deadlock.
Shiv Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray and party leader Sanjay Raut on Thursday weighed in on the power-sharing issue and reiterated the junior ally's demand that the chief minister's post in the state be "equally" shared between the partners for two and a half years each.
The combine emerged as the first contender to form the Maharashtra government for its second term when the results of the Assembly election were announced on 24 October. While the BJP emerged as the single largest party in the Assembly with 105 seats in the October Assembly elections, the party saw a dip in its vote share with the loss of 17 seats it had won in 2014. Meanwhile, the Shiv Sena saw a loss of seven seats with a tally of 56.
However, despite gaining a majority as an alliance, the parties have been at loggerheads in an increasingly muddled face-off in which neither is willing to blink first. Raut, in fact, claimed that the ongoing stalemate could lead to the imposition of President's Rule in the state as deadline to dissolve the current Assembly is two days away.
On Thursday, several senior state BJP leaders met with Governor Bhagat Singh Koshyari but didn't stake claim to form the government.
Maharashtra advocate general Ashutosh Kumbhakoni also met with the Governor amid talks of the latter stepping in to anoint a caretaker chief minister if nobody staked claim to form the new government before the present Assembly's term ends.
Uddhav Thackeray tells BJP to only get in touch with consensus on CM post
Uddhav, stating that he did not intend to end the alliance with the BJP but only wanted the implementation of what was "agreed upon" between the two parties before the Lok Sabha polls, said that the Amit Shah-led party should only call him up if there was a consensus on a rotational chief minister's post.
The Sena chief was quoted by The Indian Express as saying, "We will hold discussions with BJP provided they agree to what was decided during the Lok Sabha polls. They can call me up if they decide to give us the chief minister’s post for two and a half years, otherwise don’t call me up. Our party has been borne out of self-respect. We don’t want to corner BJP. The chief minister's statement was entirely inappropriate… If he is trying to prove that I was lying, then this is not appropriate. If BJP does not want to keep its word as decided, then what is the point in holding a discussion."
On Thursday, Uddhav chaired a meeting of Sena's new MLAs for over an hour, during which the legislators reiterated that the "equal sharing of posts and responsibilities" formula agreed upon before the Lok Sabha polls should be implemented. The Sena MLAs passed a resolution authorising Uddhav to take a "final decision" on the government formation in Maharashtra.
After the meeting at Uddhav's residence Matoshree in Bandra, all the legislators were reportedly shifted to a hotel in the same area. Reportedly, this was after speculation that a faction of the party could break away to support the BJP.
However, Raut rubbished such reports saying, "Our MLAs are committed to the party and do not need sequestering to keep them from defecting. No party will break in Maharashtra. No one can dare to come near Shiv Sena MLAs. Our MLAs are firm in their resolve and committed to the party. Those who are spreading such rumours should worry about their MLAs first.
Later in the day, Raut downplayed the move saying that legislators from outside the city had been accommodated in Rangsharda Hotel. "Not all legislators have homes in Mumbai. So, the party has decided to ensure they get facilities under one roof."
Shiv Sena MLAs say Uddhav is 'hurt' by political uncertainty in state
Speaking to the media after the meeting at the Shiv Sena chief's residence, party MLAs echoed the party line that the chief minister should be a "Shiv Sainik". MLA Sunil Prabhu also said that after authorising Uddhav to take the final decision on the situation, the legislators will be "bound" it. "It is necessary for all the MLAs to be together in the prevailing situation. Whatever decision Uddhavji takes will be binding on all of us," he said.
Abdul Sattar, another Sena MLA, said, "The next chief minister will be from the Shiv Sena." Another legislator, on condition of anonymity, said that Uddhav was "hurt" by the ongoing developments in the state.
"He feels the issues could have been resolved by sitting across the table. This did not happen, but what was decided was denied. Uddhavji said he does not want to break the alliance with the BJP. He only expects that what was decided to be implemented. He told us to wait and watch," the MLA said.
BJP is creating situation of President's Rule in Maharashtra: Sanjay Raut
Raut, who is a senior Shiv Sena leader and a Rajya Sabha MP, on Thursday also slammed the BJP over various issues regarding the ongoing stalemate. He accused the party of delaying the process of government formation and creating a situation for the imposition of President's rule.
Addressing a press conference, Raut, who has become the public voice of the party's new-found belligerence during the last fortnight, said, "Threats and blackmailing won't work now."
He added that the BJP should make a declaration if it is unable to form the government and then the Shiv Sena will take further steps. Stating the Shiv Sena's demand for sharing the chief minister's post, he said the state's chief minister will be from the Uddhav Thackeray-led party only.
"You will know on the floor of the House. We have the numbers," he claimed. "Why did the BJP leaders who met the governor today not stake a claim? Why did they return empty-handed? They want to create a situation for the imposition of President's rule. The BJP does not have the numbers," he said.
Raut also criticised state minister and BJP leader Sudhir Mungantiwar for saying that Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis is "like a Shiv Sainik". "If you think you are from the Shiv Sena, behave like a member of the party. For the Shiv Sena, the given word is very important. For us it is like 'pran jaaye par vachan na jaaye' (promise has greater value than life). The BJP should show it has 145 MLAs in its support and form the government", he said.
"When you say the mandate is for 'Mahayuti', the mandate is also for what was agreed upon when the alliance was formalised. The mandate is for having a Shiv Sena chief minister," he said. Earlier in the morning, Raut said there have been no talks yet between RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat and Uddhav on government formation in the state.
He also expressed confidence that MLAs of the Sena, and the Opposition Congress and NCP "would not cross sides".
'Onus is on governor to act if no party stakes claim'
The Opposition and political analysts responded to the tussle between the alliance partners with jibes and concern. After minister and state BJP chief Chandrakant Patil and ministers Sudhir Mungantiwar and Girish Mahajan met the governor, they said that they had discussed the "legal aspects of the current situation".
Anant Kalse, former principal secrertary of the state legislature, said the onus is on Governor Koshyari to act if no party stakes claim to form the new government. If no party comes forward, the governor can invite the single largest party to form the government, Kalse said.
"If that party shows its inability to form the new government, then the governor will invite the second largest party to form the government," Kalse said. "The governor will have to carry out these modalities," PTI quoted him as saying.
"The Assembly poll results have been notified by the Election Commission. The new Assembly will come into existence as per Constitutional provisions," he said. "Till the new chief minister is sworn in, the session of the new Assembly can't be convened," Kalse said.
After the new government proposes, the governor calls the session of the new Assembly in which all the new MLAs are sworn in, he said. "There is no provision of a caretaker government as per the Constitution but there have been such incidents even at the Centre," he said.
"The tenure of a caretaker government is a grey area but the new government will have to be formed soon," Kalse added.
Former Maharashtra advocate general Shrihari Aney said, it is a "very long time" before one can think of imposing President's rule in the state. "There are many options and actions to be taken before reaching such a decision," he said.
The Congress also questioned the BJP-Shiv Sena alliance's "moral right" to form government in Maharashtra if the Sena apprehends poaching of its MLAs by its senior ally. The Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) claimed that MLAs were being approached with inducements for switching camps.
With inputs from agencies
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Updated Date: Nov 07, 2019 20:44:30 IST