New Delhi/Mumbai: In a fresh twist to the Maharashtra political saga, Governor Bhagat Singh Koshiyari on Monday invited Sharad Pawar-led Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) to explore government formation after the Shiv Sena failed to muster the requisite numbers within the given 24 hours with the Congress remained undecided on extending support to it.
The NCP-Congress was the second largest pre-poll alliance after the BJP-Shiv Sena and have toget-her 98 MLAs. They would definitely need the support of Shiv Sena which has 56 MLAs to form a government in the state.
The big question now is whether the Shiv Sena, which failed to muster the numbers after the Cong-ress did not give it a letter of support, would agree to pop up an NCP-Congress government.
While claiming that it was undecided on extending support to a Shiv Sena government, the Congress after a series of meetings since the morning, including of its all powerful Congress Working Comm-ittee (CWC), gave out an official statement saying that it would continue “di-scussions with the NCP”.
While NCP chief Sharad Pawar has been in constant touch with the top Congress leadership, including president Sonia Gandhi, Shiv Sena chief Uddhav Thackerey also called up Mrs Gandhi seeking support.
Congress sources said the party was deeply divided on supporting the Sena which is seen as a ideological rival. While a section (read the Mahara-shtra leadership) felt that not only should Congress support a Sena government to keep the BJP out of power, it should also join the same to revive the party in the state, the other section which has many leaders from the South, especially Kerala, felt that it should not compromise on ideology and mate with a Hindutva party.
However, a senior leader maintained that the Congress was in-principle ready to support the Shiv Sena-NCP. It though remained unclear as to why the party dithered at the last minute.
Even as the Congress was deliberating with top leaders on extending support, Shiv Sena’s newly-elected MLA and the Thackerey family scion Aditya Thackerey met the Governor Koshiyari and sought more time to get the letters of support. The Governor rejected the request and within half an hour invited the next party NCP to try and form the government.
Following this, NCP spokesperson Nawab Malik told reporters in Mumbai that party leader Ajit Pawar and Chagan Bhujbal have gone to meet Governor and get the letter of invitation.
In case, the NCP-Congress too fail to muster the numbers, then the state would be heading towards possible President’s rule with the Governor having explored all possibilities of Government formation.
However, politically the situation remained positive for an alternative formation to take shape as none of the parties would want fresh elections, especially the Shiv Sena which divorced its longtime ally BJP over claims to the Chief Ministers’ chair. Its lone minister in the Union Cabinet Arvind Sawant resigned this morning.
The failure to get the required numbers is seen as a huge embarrassment for the Sena, after it played the gamble of quitting the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) by asking its lone minister to resign from the Union Cabinet.
Some Congress leaders maintained that though Sonia Gandhi gave “in-principle” okay to support the Shiv Sena, the deal got stuck on some tough bargaining.
They said that it was Sharad Pawar, who was dealing with the Shiv Sena, and the Congress would let him handle all negotiations.
According to the sources, one of the formulae thrashed out by the NCP included Uddhav Thackarey as the Chief Minister, Ajit Pawar as the Deputy Chief Minister, Congress getting the Speaker’s chair and 14 ministers of each party.
However, the NCP-Congress wanted two Deputy Chief Ministers one each for their parties. The Shiv Sena also offered only six ministers to the Congress.
The 288-member Maharashtra Assembly has 105 members of the BJP, 56 of the Shiv Sena, 54 of the NCP and 44 of the Congress. This is the 18th day of stalemate of government formation in the state. Both Shiv Sena and Congress have kept its MLAs closeted in resorts in Maharashtra and Rajasthan.
The political drama is likely to continue on Tuesday also with further discussions likely to take place between the NCP and the Congress.
“The governor had called us as the third largest party and asked our willingness and ability to form the government. We have told him that we will consult our alliance partner Congress and get back as early as possible,” said senior NCP leader Jayant Patil.
Meanwhile, as the Congress is holding discussions on whether or not to support Shiv Sena in forming a government in Maharashtra, senior party leader and former Union minister Pallam Raju said there was no question on compromising with principles that the party stands for.
“There is no question of a compromise, we (Congress) act in a very very responsible manner and we do look to Sharad Pawar (NCP chief), who is a senior leader in Maharashtra, to also decide what should be the outcome,” Raju said.
Speaking to reporters in Bengaluru, he, however, said Congress’ stand on its principle were very clear.
Stating that Congress always maintained an arm's distance from Shiv Sena, Raju said it is their internal differences with the BJP that has precipitated the situation in Maharashtra....