Mumbai: The wait for a new government in Maharashtra continued on Thursday, with the BJP not staking claim and an aggressive Shiv Sena staying firm on its demand of rotating the chief minister's post between the allies for two-and-a-half years each.
Sena president Uddhav Thackeray, who hasn't blinked in the protracted battle of nerves with its senior alliance partner, said the Amit Shah-led party should approach him only if it is ready to part with the chief minister's post.
The BJP and the Sena are engaged in a bitter tug-of-war over the latter's demand for equal distribution of portfolios and sharing the chief minister's post. The former has rejected the Sena's demand to share the chief minister's post for two-and-a-half years each. The tenure of the present Assembly ends on November 9.
The results of the October 21 Assembly elections were declared on October 24, giving the alliance a combined seat strength of 161, way past the 145-majority mark in the 288-member House.
In the polls, the BJP won 105 seats, the Sena 56, Sharad Pawar's Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) 54, and the Congress 44.
No change in Sena's stand
Thackeray on Thursday chaired an hour-long meeting of the Sena's new MLAs during which the legislators reiterated that the "equal sharing of posts and responsibilities" formula, agreed upon before the Lok Sabha polls, should be implemented. The MLAs passed a resolution authorising Thackeray to take a "final decision" on government formation in the state.
Thackeray added that he does not intend to end the alliance with the BJP but only wants implementation of what was agreed upon between the two parties before the Lok Sabha polls.
After the meeting held at Thackeray's Bandra residence 'Matoshree', the legislators were shifted to Rangsharda Hotel in suburban Bandra, close to the party chief's home, amid the ongoing uncertainty over government formation and fear of switching sides.
"It is necessary for all the MLAs to be together in the prevailing situation. Whatever decision Uddhavji takes will be binding on all of us," Sena MLA Sunil Prabhu said.
"Threats and blackmailing won't work now," said Sena MP Sanjay Raut, who has been the public face of the party's new-found belligerence over the last fortnight. "We also have options (to form government)."
Another Sena MLA, Abdul Sattar, said, "The next chief minister will be from the Shiv Sena."
Another legislator, on condition of anonymity, said Thackeray was "hurt" by the ongoing developments in the state.
"He feels the issues could have been resolved by sitting across the table. This did not happen. Instead, what was decided was denied. Uddhavji said he did not want to break the alliance with the BJP. He only expects that what was decided be implemented," the MLA said. "He told us to wait and watch."
Raut said there has been no change in his party's stand on government formation and reiterated the demand for sharing the chief minister's post. He also asked that if the people's mandate was for the 'Mahayuti' (grand alliance), why the BJP was not staking claim to form the government.
In a veiled attack on the BJP, he said those responsible for political instability were harming the state.
"There is no change in the Shiv Sena's stand on government formation; all our MLAs are supporting (party chief) Uddhav Thackeray," Raut said, asserting that the chief minister will be from the "Sena only".
"If the mandate is for 'Mahayuti', why not stake claim to form the government? Why have you (BJP) returned empty-handed after meeting the governor?" the Rajya Sabha member asked.
"When you say the mandate is for 'Mahayuti', the mandate is also for what was agreed upon when the alliance was formalised (before the Lok Sabha polls)," Raut said. He also accused the BJP of delaying the process of government formation and creating a situation for the imposition of President's rule.
BJP delegation meets Governor
Earlier on Thursday, senior leaders of Maharashtra BJP met Governor Bhagat Singh Koshyari at Raj Bhavan in Mumbai to discuss the "legal aspects" of the delay in forming the government. Those in attendance included state BJP chief Chandrakant Patil and ministers Sudhir Mungantiwar and Girish Mahajan.
"We discussed the legal aspects of the current situation with the governor. We will hold talks with our leaders and decide next course of action," said Patil.
Maharashtra Advocate General Ashutosh Kumbhakoni also met Koshyari amid talk of the latter stepping in to annoint a caretaker chief minister if nobody stakes claim to form the new government before the present Assembly's term ends on Saturday.
Anant Kalse, former principal secretary of the state legislature, said the onus is on Koshyari to act if no party stakes claim. If no one comes forward, the Governor can invite the single-largest party to form the government, he said.
"If that party shows its inability to form the new government, then the Governor will invite the second-largest party to form the government," said Kalse. "The Governor will have to carry out these modalities."
The decision to hold the first session of the new Assembly is taken in the first Cabinet meeting of the new government, he said, adding that holding the session is the Cabinet's responsibility.
"The Assembly poll results have been notified by the Election Commission. The new Assembly will come into existence as per constitutional provisions," he said. "Till the new chief minister is sworn in, the session of the new Assembly cannot be convened."
Gadkari bats for Fadnavis
In Nagpur, Union minister Nitin Gadkari said Devendra Fadnavis should head the new government as he has been elected head of state BJP legislature party. Gadkari also ruled out his assuming the state's top job, adding that RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat should not be linked to the government formation moves.
Gadkari said the BJP and the Sena have got people's mandate to form the new government and very soon a decision will be taken. "The BJP has won 105 seats, obviously the chief minister will be of the BJP. The party that has won more seats in Assembly polls will have the chief minister's post," he said.
(With inputs from agencies)