The slow pace of government formation in Maharashtra continued on Saturday as the meeting of a joint delegation from Shiv Sena, Congress and Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) with Governor Bhagat Singh Koshyari scheduled for 4 pm was cancelled.
The fallout between the saffron allies — the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the Shiv Sena— seemed to strengthen with senior Shiv Sena leader Sanjay Raut asserting that the Uddhav Thackeray-led party will not attend the NDA meeting in Delhi on Sunday. He also said that Sena's pullout from the national alliance was just a matter of formality.
Joint delegation's meeting with governor postponed
A delegation of Shiv Sena, Congress and NCP leaders was scheduled to meet Koshyari at 4 pm on Saturday, reportedly to discuss issues of agrarian crisis and unemployment in the state. However, the meeting was postponed 'till further notice' as NCP and Congress leaders were not available, reported News18. No new appointment has been given by the governor.
The three parties had on Friday claimed that the meeting was not to stake claim to power, but to seek immediate aid for rain-affected farmers.
Shiv Sena, NCP step up attack on BJP
The Shiv Sena and the NCP also stepped up their attack on the BJP with Raut saying that the NDA was not somebody's property. Speaking to reporters in Mumbai, the Shiv Sena MP confirmed that the party will not attend the NDA meeting in Delhi on Sunday ahead of the Winter session of the Parliament beginning on 18 November. He also said that the Uddhav Thackeray-led party walking out of the BJP-headed NDA remains a formality now.
"I have learnt that the meeting (of NDA constituents) is being held on 17 November. We had already decided against attending the meeting considering the kind of developments that are taking place in Maharashtra... our minister resigning from the Central government," Raut said.
Arvind Sawant, the lone Sena minister in Modi government had resigned on 11 November. The NCP had set pre-conditions that Sawant resigns from the Modi cabinet and that the saffron party walks out of the NDA bloc if it wants the support of the Sharad Pawar-led party in forming the government in Maharashtra.
The Sena leader further said he had learnt that his party had not received an invitation to attend the NDA meeting. "It is alright if it has not been sent. We had already decided (against attending the meeting)," Raut said.
In a sharp jibe at its estranged ally-turned-foe, Raut said the NDA was not somebody's property. "The Shiv Sena and the Akali Dal were equally important founders of the alliance," he added.
Asked whether only a formal announcement of the Sena walking out of the NDA remains pending now, Raut said, "You can say that. There is no problem in saying that". The Shiv Sena, a long-standing constituent of the NDA, fell out with the BJP over rotational sharing the chief ministerial post in Maharashtra, a few days after the results of the state Assembly polls were announced on 24 October.
The Rajya Sabha MP also exuded confidence that the Sena will install its mayors in the Mumbai and Thane civic bodies in upcoming Mayoral elections. Raut also said the Sena, the NCP and the Congress have reached consensus on the Common Minimum Programme (CMP), the foundation of the proposed alliance government, in Maharashtra itself and there was no need to discuss it in Delhi.
His statement came amid reports that NCP chief Sharad Pawar is scheduled to meet Congress interim president Sonia Gandhi in Delhi on Sunday.
Meanwhile, NCP spokesperson Nawab Malik said that the BJP was afraid that the leaders who joined the party ahead of the Assembly polls might desert it as the party was now out of power. Malik made the remarks a day after Maharashtra BJP chief Chandrakant Patil said his party will soon form the government and claimed it can count on the support of 119 MLAs, including Independents, in the 288-member Assembly.
Malik also questioned why the BJP did not form a government earlier if it had the numbers as claimed by its Maharashtra unit chief. "None can form the government (in Maharashtra) without the backing of at least 145 MLAs. They (the BJP) do not have their own MLAs, it brought leaders from other parties into its fold," Malik said.
He was referring to a slew of leaders from the Congress and NCP joining the BJP ahead of the 21 October Assembly election.
Malik also attacked former chief minister Devendra Fadnavis over his recent remark that a non-BJP government will not last for more than six months, saying the latter spoke, like the general of a defeated army, to boost the morale of his party men.
Earlier in the day, the Sena had in its mouthpiece, Saamana, had hit out at Fadnavis, saying the new political equation was giving "stomach ache to several people".
"Those with 105 seats had earlier conveyed to the governor that they do not have the majority. How come are they now claiming that only they will form the government?" Sena said in an editorial in Saamana. "...the intention of horse-trading stand exposed now. The lies of those promising transparent governance are becoming evident now," it said, adding that "unethical" ways do not suit the tradition of the state.
Meanwhile, the seating arrangement of Shiv Sena MPs Sanjay Raut and Anil Desai in the Parliament was changed. The MPs will now sit in the Opposition rows, reported ANI.
Rajya Sabha sources: The seating arrangement of Shiv Sena MPs Sanjay Raut & Anil Desai in the Parliament has changed now. Shiv Sena will sit in opposition now. (File pics) pic.twitter.com/tg6gJtujPv
— ANI (@ANI) November 16, 2019
BJP eyes civic body polls
Earlier on Saturday, Patil and Fadnavis conducted a meet with BJP leaders in Mumbai. According to a report in News18-Lokmat, 56 candidates who had unsuccessfully contested the Assembly polls attended the meeting.
After the meeting, Patil told reporters that the BJP is set to face the upcoming local body elections in various parts of the state with a positive outlook.
Meanwhile, senior BJP leader Nitin Gadkari said the vision of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) and its affiliated organisations is not limited to "forming the government" but it is more about "nation-building".
Speaking at a function organised by the Akhil Bhartiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP), the student wing of the RSS, in Pune, Gadkari said, "We (Sangh Parivar) have a clear vision, and it is not limited to forming the government or making anyone chief minister or prime minister. We have a clear vision about our ideology and we should work for rebuilding the nation."
Gadkari did not make any direct comment on the current political situation in the state where his party could not form the government despite emerging as the single-largest party in the Assembly election.
"Ideology is important and human relations are even more important for us," he said.
Maharashtra is at present under President's Rule. Politics in Maharashtra took a turn after the Shiv Sena walked away from its ally BJP over sharing the chief ministerial post. The two parties fell out after having contested the Assembly polls together and coming up with 161 seats jointly.
At present, Shiv Sena is in the process of working out a new equation with erstwhile rivals NCP and Congress to form a non-BJP government in the state.
With inputs from agencies
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Updated Date: Nov 16, 2019 19:50:17 IST