Mumbai: The Shiv Sena on Monday night suffered a setback in its efforts to cobble up a non-BJP government in Maharashtra with the Congress at the last moment announcing its decision to hold more talks with ally NCP on supporting the Uddhav Thackeray-led party.
Speaking to reporters outside Raj Bhavan here after meeting Governor Bhagat Singh Koshyari, Sena leader Aaditya Thackeray said "two parties" (read the Congress and the NCP) have agreed "in principle" to support the party-led government, but the governor refused additional time sought by his party to muster numbers. Sources told News18 that the Uddhav Thackeray-led party is now mulling some legal options over governor's refusal to their 48 hours deadline extension.
Putting up a brave front, Aaditya said the Sena's claim on formation of a government still stands. "We have initiated talks with two parties. Both the parties have expressed their in-principle support to the Sena," he said without taking names of the Congress and the NCP.
"We informed the governor about our willingness to stake a claim for government formation. Shiv Sena MLAs have already issued their support in written," Aaditya added. He said the two parties need a few more days to complete their procedures, "hence we sought time from the governor but he refused to grant it."
Aaditya, son of party chief Uddhav Thackeray, further said they would come to Raj Bhavan soon and stake the claim for government formation. "The process to form a government in Maharashtra will continue," he said.
Aaditya said the governor granted only 24 hours to the Sena to express its willingness to form a government. "We want to offer a stable government in Maharashtra and we will continue our efforts," he added.
On Sunday, the governor invited the Sena, the second largest bloc in the 288-member House with 56 newly-elected members, to stake a claim setting 7:30 pm deadline on Monday. The governor's invitation came within hours after the BJP (105), which is the single largest party in the 288-member Assembly, declined to form a government after the Sena refused to join it.
The Sena then reached out to the Sharad Pawar-led NCP and the Congress, which collectively have 98 MLAs. The halfway mark is 145. Earlier in the day, the lone Sena minister in Narendra Modi cabinet, Arvind Sawant, announced his resignation, a pre-condition set by the NCP. Uddhav Thackeray met Pawar in Mumbai and requested him to support the saffron party in forming a non-BJP government.
However, the Congress on Monday evening decided to hold further talks with the NCP on whether to support the Sena, a development that dashed the hopes of the Uddhav Thackeray-led party. "The Congress President has spoken to Sharad Pawarji. The party will have further discussions with the NCP," a statement issued by party general secretary K C Venugopal said.
(With PTI inputs)