New Delhi: A week after the results for the October 21 Assembly elections were announced, there appeared to be no headway in government formation in Maharashtra, with allies BJP and Shiv Sena still at loggerheads over the quantum of power sharing.
The Sena on Thursday once again indicated it had not given up its claim to the post of chief minister, saying that equal sharing of power must mean sharing of the top post as well. Adopting a harsh tone, it accused the BJP of enacting a "second act" of the "use and throw" policy while dealing with its ally.
Hours later, senior Sena leader Sanjay Raut called on Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) chief Sharad Pawar at his residence in South Mumbai, triggering speculation about the possible formation of an alternative government in the state. However, Raut said the meeting was a “courtesy call”.
“It isn't unusual for me to meet Mr Pawar. I meet him often. We discussed the current political scenario in the state, among other things,” said Raut, who had also met Pawar on the day of results.
The saffron allies Sena and BJP are locked in a dispute over the power-sharing formula for the new government. The Uddhav Thackeray-led party wants rotational chief ministership and half of the portfolios, demands rejected by its senior partner, the BJP.
On the other hand, the NCP and its ally, the Congress, won 54 and 44 seats, respectively.
Whatever was decided when the two parties stitched up an alliance before the Lok Sabha elections should be implemented, Sena mouthpiece `Saamana' said in an editorial. Raut earlier on Thursday also described as rumours reports that his party has softened its stand on the issue of sharing power with BJP.
"The (reports that) Sena has softened (its stand), has compromised and relinquished equitable distribution of posts, are all rumours," he said in a tweet.
"This is the public, which knows everything. Whatever will was decided (between BJP and Sena), will happen," he added.
The developments came after Maharashtra minister Eknath Shinde was on Thursday elected the party's leader in the state legislature. His candidature was proposed by party leader Aaditya Thackeray, whose name was also doing the rounds for the post.
The election was announced at a meeting of the newly-elected Sena MLAs at party office Sena Bhawan in Dadar area.
At the meeting, Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray also reportedly expressed his dismay at Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis's remarks that sharing the chief minister’s post did not figure in the talks between the top Sena and BJP leaders ahead of the Lok Sabha polls.
On Thursday evening, Aaditya Thackeray also led a delegation of Sena MLAs to Governor Bhagat Singh Koshyari, asking him to declare a wet drought in the state owing to unseasonal rain in various parts.
Aaditya and other Sena leaders submitted a memorandum to the governor seeking "all possible help" to farmers and fishermen affected by heavy rains.
Asked about the delay in government formation in, Aaditya said his party has given all authority in the matter to Uddhav Thackeray.
"I can't comment on government formation, Uddhav sahib will have the final word," he said.
Sources in the BJP claimed their party has the support of 13 Independent MLAs.
Congress general secretary Mallikarjun Kharge attended a meeting of the party's newly-elected MLAs in Maharashtra at the party office in Mumbai. State Congress president Balasaheb Thorat and senior party leaders Ashok Chavan, Prithviraj Chavan and Sushilkumar Shinde were present.
The Congress, hit by desertions by some prominent leaders, including Radhakrishna Vikhe Patil, ahead of the Assembly elections, bagged 44 seats, two more than its 2014 tally.
Earlier on Thursday, several Congress leaders, including Thorat, Ashok and Prithviraj Chavan, also met Pawar at his residence. "The meeting was to discuss the strategy of the alliance partners (NCP and Congress) in view of the current political situation," sources said.
As the NCP's newly-elected MLAs met, a huge banner erected outside the party office said Maharashtra's history has shown that it never bows before the "throne of Delhi".
Prithviraj Chavan later said in case the Sena sends any proposal over government formation in Maharashtra to the Congress, the same will be conveyed to the opposition party's central leadership.
"The Shiv Sena will have to take some steps if the BJP, being the single largest party, fails to form government. In case the Shiv Sena proposes something (on government formation to the Congress), we will convey the same to our central leadership," he said.