Picking up from where Shiv Sena boss Uddhav Thackeray had left it yesterday, his party continued to play hardball over its initial demand for the chief minister’s post on Friday and delivered a sharp warning to the BJP that it could look at other political formations if its demand for the chief minister’s post wasn’t accepted.
“If Shiv Sena decides, it’ll get the required numbers to form a stable government in the state,” senior party leader, Sanjay Raut, told reporters on Friday amid the ongoing, and increasingly bitter, tussle with the BJP over the Sena’s demand for equal sharing of posts and responsibilities, including the chief ministership.
Raut also dared the BJP to go ahead and form the government if it had the numbers. “The mandate was for the alliance, why didn’t they come forward to discuss on the day results were announced?” he asked.
The BJP, which contested the state elections in alliance with the Shiv Sena, had emerged as the single largest party with 105 seats in the 288-member assembly. Its ally, the Shiv Sena, was the second largest with 56 seats. The Congress has 44 MLAs and the NCP 54. A strength of 145 is needed for a simple majority.
Raut’s warning comes just hours after he met Nationalist Congress Party chief Sharad Pawar at his house on Thursday evening. Raut later told reporters that he had gone to extend Diwali wishes to Pawar but they did discuss, as Raut later put it, “the politics in Maharashtra”.
That meeting, followed up with Friday’s warning, is seen as an effort to counter the narrative that the Shiv Sena, despite the many stinging barbs that it directs at its alliance partner, would eventually come around. It is also designed to rebut the BJP argument that the Sena did not have the numbers to claim the CM’s post and was only using the demand to seek more cabinet portfolios.
“People have given mandate to form government on basis of 50-50 formula that was reached in front of people of Maharashtra.They want chief minister from Shiv Sena. There will be a Shiv Sena chief minister,” Sanjay Raut said.
Shiv Sena boss, Uddhav Thackeray, has been particularly upset with the BJP after chief minister, Devendra Fadnavis, told reporters this week that there had been no decision on the 50-50 power-sharing formula that Sena leaders talk about.
At a meeting of party lawmakers to elect their leader in the assembly, Uddhav Thackeray told his MLAs that Fadnavis’ assertion was untrue and uncalled for. The Sena chief also told his party that the talks on government formation could proceed only after the BJP admits that there was a 50-50 formula.
BJP leader and finance minister in the outgoing cabinet, Sudhir Mungantiwar, responded to the latest warning from the Sena but insisted that the rift between the two allies was just a ‘hurdle’.
“We are willing to take the initiative and start the talks to end this impasse. This is just a small hurdle. The mandate is for both of us. It would be unfortunate if we can’t form the government by November 8,” said Mungantiwar.
“It would be unfortunate if we let one up manship derail the talks,” he said, underscoring that the BJP would approach the Sena to initiate talks later in the day.
Political analyst Prakash Bal sees Friday’s statement by Sanjay Raut as a pressure tactic. “It is unlikely that the Shiv Sena will go with the Congress-NCP to form the government…It will be an unstable government. Also, Sharad Pawar is not likely to support a Sena-led government. This seems to be pressure tactics of the Shiv Sena. We will have to wait and see how the BJP reacts to it,” said Prakash Bal.