No headway in Maharashtra govt formation as BJP, Sena refuse to budge

Sena authorises Uddhav to take final call on govt formation; MLAs shift to hotel
Maharashtra BJP president Chandrakant Patil with party leaders Sudhir Mungantiwar, Ashish Shelar and Girish Mahajan interact with media after meeting Maharashtra Governor Bhagat Singh Koshyari, in Mumbai.

Mumbai: The wait for a new government in Maharashtra prolonged on Thursday, with the BJP not staking claim, while an aggressive Shiv Sena remained firm on rotation of the chief minister's post.

Sena president Uddhav Thackeray, who hasn't blinked in the protracted battle of nerves with the senior alliance partner, was quoted as saying that the Amit Shah-led party should approach him only if ready to give Sena the CMs post.

On Thursday, Thackeray 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 Thackeray to take a "final decision" on government formation in Maharashtra.

The party also appeared firm on its decision of sharing the chief minister's post for two-and-a-half years each with the BJP.

After the meet, held at Thackeray's Bandra residence 'Matoshree', the legislators went to Rangsharda Hotel, close to the party chief's home, where they were shifted amid the ongoing uncertainty over government formation and fear of switching sides.

"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," Sena MLA Sunil Prabhu said.

"The Sena MLAs passed a resolution authorising Uddhavji to take a final decision regarding government formation," party legislator Shambhuraje Desai told reporters after the meeting ended.

Sena MLA Abdul Sattar said, "The next chief minister will be from the Shiv Sena. Uddhavji will take a final decision regarding government formation."

Another MLA, on condition of anonymity, said Thackeray was "hurt" over the ongoing developments in the state.

"He (Thackeray) feels issues could have been resolved by sitting across the table. This did not happen. Instead, what was decided was denied. Uddhavji said he did not want to break the alliance with the BJP. He only expects that what was decided be implemented," the legislator said.

"He told us to wait and watch," the MLA added.

The Shiv Sena has been maintaining that in February this year, before the Lok Sabha polls, it was decided that there will be equal sharing of posts and responsibilities between the party and the BJP.

While the Shiv Sena has been insisting on sharing the chief minister's post, the BJP has rejected it.

Both the parties are locked in a tussle over the issue of the chief minister's post, resulting in a stalemate in government formation despite results of the October 24 Assembly polls giving the alliance a combined seat strength of 161, way past the 145 majority mark in the 288-member House.

In the polls, the BJP won 105 seats, Shiv Sena-56, NCP-54 and the Congress won 44 seats. Results of the October 21 Assembly poll were declared on October 24.

No change in Sena's stand

Meanwhile, Senior Shiv Sena leader Sanjay Raut has said there was no change in his party's stand on government formation in Maharashtra and reiterated the demand for sharing the chief minister's post.

He also asked that if the people's mandate was for the 'Mahayuti' (grand alliance), why the BJP was not staking claim to form government.

In an veiled attack on the BJP, he said those responsible for political instability were causing harm the state.

Sena authorises Uddhav to take final call on govt formation; MLAs shift to hotel
Shiv Sena leader Sanjay Raut

"There is no change in the Shiv Sena's stand on government formation; all our MLAs are supporting (party chief) Uddhav Thackeray," Raut said addressing a press conference here.

He asserted that the chief minister of the state will be from the "Sena only".

"If the mandate is for 'Mahayuti', why not stake claim to form the government? Why have you (BJP) returned empty- handed after meeting the governor?" the Rajya Sabha member sought to know.

"When you say the mandate is for 'Mahayuti', the mandate is also for what was agreed upon when the alliance was formalised (before the Lok Sabha polls)," Raut said.

"Threats and blackmailing won't work now," said Sanjay Raut, who has been the public face of the party's new-found belligerence during the last fortnight.

Sena authorises Uddhav to take final call on govt formation; MLAs shift to hotel
Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis chairs a meeting of the ministers who had visited areas affected by unseasonal rain to take a stock of the situation, in Mumbai, Wednesday. Photo: PTI

"We also have options (to form government)," he said, but did not elaborate.

'Fadnavis will head new govt'

However, Union Minister Nitin Gadkari on Thursday a decision will soon be taken on government formation in the state, and since the BJP won more number of seats than the Sena, the chief minister will be from his party.

Speaking to reporters, the Lok Sabha member from Nagpur also ruled out his return to his home state to assume the top job.

"Devendra Fadnavis will head the new government," Gadkari said.

To another query, he said, "RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat or the Sangh have no relation with all this. It won't be appropriate to link the RSS chief to the goings on (over government formation)."

However, Gadkari said he was hopeful that the deadlock between the BJP and Shiv Sena will get resolved.

"Maharashtra will have the BJP-Sena government under the leadership of Devendra Fadnavis. The mandate is for 'yuti' (grand alliance), so there will be some solution to the deadlock," he said.

"Fadnavis has been appointed leader of the BJP's legislature wing. The government should be formed under his leadership," Gadkari said.

He also said that talks with the Sena were on and there will be a solution "for sure", he said.

BJP leaders meet Governor

Meanwhile, senior leaders of Maharashtra BJP on Thursday met Governor Bhagat Singh Koshyari to discuss "legal aspects" of the delay in formation of a government in the state after the October 21 elections.

Those who met Koshyari included minister and state BJP chief Chandrakant Patil and ministers Sudhir Mungantiwar and Girish Mahajan.

Patil admitted that it is taking "more than normal" time to forge a ruling alliance between BJP and Shiv Sena.

Speaking to reporters after meeting Koshyari, Patil said, "It is true that it has taken more than normal time to stake claim for government formation in Maharashtra."

"We discussed the legal aspects of the current situation with the governor. We will hold talks with our leaders and decide next course of action," he said.

Maharashtra Advocate General Ashutosh Kumbhakoni met Governor Bhagat Singh Koshyari at Raj Bhavan amid talk of the latter stepping in to anoint a caretaker CM if nobody stakes claim to form the new government before the present Assembly's term ends in two days.

The tenure of the present Assembly ends on November 9.

Anant Kalse, former principal secretary 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," he told a TV channel.

"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 CM 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.

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," Aney said.

"There is no provision in law that the new government will have to be formed by November 9, after the tenure of the present Assembly ends," Aney said.

(With inputs from PTI)

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