Pawar meets Sonia but Maharashtra stalemate continues

Pawar meets Sonia but Maharashtra stalemate continues
NCP chief Sharad Pawar and Congress President Sonia Gandhi. Photos: PTI

New Delhi/Mumbai: No early resolution of the 26-day-old impasse on government formation in Maharashtra appeared in sight on Monday, even as NCP chief Sharad Pawar said the issue did not figure in his meeting with Congress president Sonia Gandhi earlier in the day.

Asked if he would rule out the NCP supporting the BJP in forming the government, Pawar evaded a direct reply and pointed out that the BJP was his party's major opponent in the Assembly polls.

"The BJP and Sena contested the polls jointly. Ask them why are they not forming the government," Pawar said.

There was no response to Pawar's remarks from the Shiv Sena, which is banking on the support of NCP and Congress to keep the BJP away from power.

Amid the impasse over government formation in Maharashtra, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Monday extolled the virtues of the Pawar-led Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) in Parliament, praising the party for strictly "adhering to parliamentary norms."

Addressing the House on the occasion of the 250th session of Rajya Sabha, Modi said, "Today I want to appreciate two parties, NCP and BJD. These parties have strictly adhered to parliamentary norms."

In Mumbai, the BJP opted out of fray for the November 22 mayoral poll in India's richest civic body, leaving the Sena retaining the mayor's post a mere formality.

Addressing a press conference in Delhi, Pawar said he briefed Gandhi about the political situation in Maharashtra and that there was no talk on government formation in the state.

"We have discussed in detail the political situation in Maharashtra," he said.

"We will keep an eye on the situation in Maharashtra. Congress and NCP leaders will hold further talks on the future course of action," he added.

The NCP is in talks with ally Congress for a possible coalition with the Uddhav Thackeray-led Shiv Sena after the latter's alliance with the BJP fell apart over the chief minister's post in Maharashtra.

Maharashtra was placed under the President's rule on November 12 after no party or alliance staked claim to form government in the state.

Pawar's meeting with the Congress chief comes a day after the NCP's core committee meeting in Pune resolved that the President's rule should end and an alternative government be formed in Maharashtra.

After Shiv Sena MPs were allotted seats on the Opposition side in Parliament, Sena MP Sanjay Raut on Monday hit back at the BJP, saying the NDA government at the Centre is not the property of one party but some are "considering themselves God".

In the October 21 Maharashtra polls, the BJP-Sena saffron alliance had secured a comfortable majority by winning 105 and 56 seats respectively in the 288-member Assembly. The Congress and the NCP, pre-poll allies, had won 44 and 54 seats respectively.

The Shiv Sena on Monday took a swipe at the BJP, over the "paltry" financial assistance announced by Governor Bhagat Singh Koshyari to the farmers affected by unseasonal rains.

In an editorial in the party mouthpiece Saamana, the Sena said the BJP, which is in power at the Centre, left the affected farmers in the state disappointed with the "meagre" relief.

Meanwhile, Shiv Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray has put off his November 24 visit to Ayodhya, a Sena leader said on Monday.

"The government formation process is taking time. Leaders of the three parties (Sena, NCP and Congress) are holding meetings. They are inching towards government formation. In view of these developments, Uddhavji has decided to postpone his visit to Ayodhya," a Sena leader said.

(With PTI inputs)

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