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'Will Meet Again at 4pm Today': After Cong Meet, No Clarity if Party Will Support Shiv Sena

Party president Sonia Gandhi chaired the meeting of the top leaders of her party at her residence, sources said, amid indications that the legislators were not in favour of fresh elections in the state.


Updated:November 11, 2019, 1:30 PM IST
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'Will Meet Again at 4pm Today': After Cong Meet, No Clarity if Party Will Support Shiv Sena
File photo of Congress leader Mallikarjun Kharge.

New Delhi:As its flock of Maharashtra MLAs huddled together in a Jaipur resort, the Congress Working Committee met here on Monday to support the Shiv Sena in forming a government in the state, but the sam,e remained inconclusive.

Party president Sonia Gandhi chaired the meeting of the top leaders of her party at her residence, sources said, amid indications that the legislators were not in favour of fresh elections in the state. "We will sit again at 4 pm and will decide on the issue after a meeting with our state leaders," AICC general secretary in-charge for Maharashtra Mallikarjun Kharge said after the CWC meeting.

Three Maharashtra former chief ministers Ashok Chavan, Prithivraj Chavan and Sushilkumar Shind, PCC chief Balasaheb Thorat and CLP leader K C Padavi will meet the senior leadership of the party. Kharge said leaders from the state will give their views to the leadership and the party will decide on its course of action after that.

The CWC is the highest decision making body of the Congress."We have always maintained distance from the right wing party which is the Shiv Sena. Their internal differences have precipitated the situation in Maharashtra," said senior Congress leader M M Pallam Raju.

Hectic deliberations have started since Sunday over the Congress' participation in government formation in Maharashtra after the odds tilted in Shiv Sena's favour as it was invited by the governor to form the government. The Congress leadership is internally torn between support to the ideologically-opposed Shiv Sena days after its chief Sonia Gandhi strongly ruled it out.

Sena was invited by Maharashtra Governor Bhagat Singh Koshyari to indicate "willingness and ability" to form government in the state after the BJP said it would not stake claim to power. Senior Shiv Sena leader Sanjay Raut on Monday said if the BJP was not willing to fulfill its promise of sharing the chief minister's post in Maharashtra, there was no point in continuing the alliance. Reaching out to the opposition parties, Raut said the Congress and the NCP should bury their internal differences to come up with a 'common minimum programme' in the interest of Maharashtra.

Uddhav Thackeray is tipped to be Chief Minister, with an NCP deputy, in a formula that has been in circulation over the weekend.

The stage was set after Arvind Sawant, the lone party minister in the Narendra Modi Cabinet, announced his decision to quit the NDA government at the Centre, setting up the party's anticipated severing of ties with the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA). The Sena's decision to pull out its only minister in the central government meets a key condition of NCP to discuss any alliance to form a government in Maharashtra.

"If the Sena wants the support of the Congress and NCP they must first announce that they are ending ties with the BJP and they are out of the NDA. Their ministers need to quit the council of ministers," NCP's Nawab Malik said on Monday. Meanwhile, party head Pawar maintained that "Whatever decision is to be taken will be taken only after discussions with the Congress.

In an editorial in Saamana, the party mouthpiece, the Sena had said last week: "With 54 MLAs of NCP, 44 Cong MLAs and few independents, we can reach majority. The Sena can present its own Chief Minister and for that, three parties with independent ideology should form policies which are acceptable to all". However, Congress chief Sonia Gandhi in a meeting with Sharad Pawar ruled out the possibility of supporting the Sena. But in a meeting with Sharad Pawar, Congress chief Sonia Gandhi had ruled out supporting the Shiv Sena.

Those in the Congress who favour backing the Sena argue that the BJP formed governments in Goa and Manipur even when they were not the single largest party, and the governors allowed such BJP-led coalitions to take power. Even for Sena, the step of allying with the Congress could mean a loss of identity, wavering the stability of any arrangement between the sides.

While the Congress leadership in Delhi is under increasing pressure from its Maharashtra MLAs, one of its leaders in the state, Sanjay Nirupam, openly admonished the party that such a move would be "disastrous"."In the current political arithmetic in Maharashtra, it's just impossible for Congress-NCP to form any government. For that we need Shiv Sena. And we must not think of sharing power with Shiv Sena under any circumstances. That will be a disastrous move for the party," Nirupam wrote in a tweet.

"No matter who forms government and how, political instability in Maharashtra cannot be ruled out now. Get ready for early elections. It may take place in 2020. Can we go to the elections with Shiv Sena as partner?" he added.

The BJP won 105 seats in last month's Maharashtra election. Along with the Sena's 56, the NDA had a clear majority. But the Sena refused to form government with the BJP without a "50:50" deal including rotational chief ministership. After the BJP withdrew from the race, saying it could not form a government on its own, the Sena is looking to take power with the support of the NCP (54) and Congress (44).

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