New Delhi: The Congress-Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) alliance on Wednesday gave its most categorical indication about joining hands with arch rival Shiv Sena, with former chief minister Prithviraj Chavan expressing confidence of forming a "stable" government soon in the state after a marathon meeting of senior leaders of the two parties here.
A few hours after the press conference, Chavan said Congress and NCP leaders will meet on Thursday. "By evening, we will leave for Maharashtra. Day after tomorrow, all three parties (Congress-NCP-Shiv Sena) will meet," he said.
While Chavan hoped that political uncertainty will soon end in Maharashtra, NCP spokesperson Nawab Malik was unambiguous about the need to join hands with the Sena, asserting that a government cannot be formed in the state without the three parties uniting.
This is the most emphatic public statement by the Congress-NCP combine about its intent to join hands with the Sena to form government.
Speaking to reporters after the meeting at NCP chief Sharad Pawar's residence here, both leaders said the current spell of President's Rule in the state has brought the administration to a standstill and that the two parties are confident of ending this.
Senior Congress leaders Ahmad Patel and Mallikarjun Kharge were part of the nearly four-hour-long deliberations held at Pawar's residence.
The announcement, which is likely to end whatever little doubt remained over if the Congress will back the Sena or not amid reports of opposition to such an alliance by a section of its leaders, came a day after Pawar met Congress president Sonia Gandhi.
Earlier on Wednesday, Pawar called on Prime Minister Narendra Modi to discuss farmers' issues in Maharashtra.
However, Chavan added that some aspects of the likely alliance are still being discussed. "We had a long and positive discussion... we are confident that we will soon be able to give a stable government in Maharashtra," he said.
The Sena may get the post of chief minister in such a formation on a rotational basis, NCP sources indicated, with the first half to be given to the Sena and the latter half to the NCP. The Congress is likely to have the deputy chief minister's post for the full five-year term, they added.
A senior NCP leader said the fight between the Sena and the BJP was for over the issue of chief ministership for two-and-half years each. "So, the question of the Sena enjoying the full five-year term does not arise. The second half will have a chief minister from the NCP," he said.
But Congress sources said the issue of the chief minister's post was not discussed in Wednesday's meeting.
Sena leader Sanjay Raut reiterated the demand for a chief minister from his party, claiming the state wishes to see Sena president Uddhav Thackeray in the chair. He added that a decision on government formation would be soon announced.
“When three parties form a government, then the process is long. This process has started today. In the coming two-five days, when the process is completed, a government will be formed in Maharashtra,” he said.
The state plunged into political crisis after the Sena broke its three-decade-old ties with the BJP after the latter refused to accede to its demand of sharing the chief minister's post.
The BJP and the Sena, which fought the October 21 Assembly polls in 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, won 44 and 54 seats, respectively. The Sena then began talks with the Congress-NCP alliance.
(With inputs from agencies)