New Delhi: Amid intensive discussion between the BJP and its ally Shiv Sena over the seat-sharing formula in Maharashtra, the regional party appeared to soften its stance on Wednesday, with its leader Sanjay Raut saying it is necessary for the party to stay in the BJP-led alliance in the larger interest of Maharashtra, but without compromising on "respect".
“But we (Sena) will decide the fate of Maharashtra,” he added.
Raut’s remarks came hours after the BJP picked Devendra Fadnavis as its chief ministerial pick.
The BJP and the Shiv Sena, with 105 and 56 seats respectively in the 288-member House, are busy wooing the 13 Independent MLAs in the state to give themselves an upper hand during discussions for formation of the next government.
“To form a government, the side claiming the post needs to show 145 seats on the floor of the house...that is all that matters,” said Raut.
Raut said there is no hurry to form the next government and rejected speculation that the Shiv Sena may split if there is a delay in formation of the new Council of Ministers.
Buoyed by the results of the Assembly elections, the Sena has been trying to snatch a bigger piece of the pie, reminding the BJP of the “50-50” power-sharing agreement arrived at before the elections. It has demanded a written assurance from the BJP for implementing “equal formula for sharing of power”, which could possibly include equal division of the chief ministerial tenure.
Raut said his party only wants implementation of what was decided between the two allies before the October 21 Assembly polls, adding that the state is of paramount importance for his party. “Personal power is not important, the state is important,” said the Rajya Sabha MP.
To a question on whether the Sena was adamant on implementing the 50:50 formula (equal share in power), Raut said, "You (the media) are saying this. We only want things to be done according to what has been decided earlier."
Raut said there was no question of any newly-elected Sena MLA leaving the party due to delay in government formation. "No newly-elected MLA from any party will split. There was no question of this happening with Shiv Sena MLAs," he said.
About re-election of Fadnavis as leader of the BJP legislature party, Raut on Wednesday said, "Those who have support of 145 MLAs (in a house of 288) will be the chief minister and it is our duty to welcome him."
Asked about reports that the BJP has offered the deputy chief minister's post and 13 portfolios to the Sena, Raut evaded a direct reply and said, "We are not sitting with account books."
Earlier in the day, Fadnavis asserted that the alliance partners will soon form the government in the state, dubbing the rumours of "alternate formulae" being worked out to form the government as "entertainment".
The tug-of-war for the CM’s chair took a turn for the worse after Fadnavis on Tuesday denied that such an agreement was reached and asserted that he could continue as the chief minister. This angered the Sena, which called off talks with the BJP.
Wednesday’s development, however, comes as a seal of approval for Fadnavis from the BJP and thus closes the doors on the demands for the chief minister’s post by the Sena, which has been rooting for Thackeray scion Aaditya — who made his political debut in these elections — to take the chair.
The Sena has now called a crucial meeting of its members on Thursday to decide the future course of action.
Raut, the executive editor of Sena's mouthpiece 'Saamana', has been vociferously articulating the party's demands for equal share in power and the chief minister's post on a rotational basis. On Tuesday, he had even talked of his party looking at "alternatives" if its key demands were not accepted by the BJP.
"We believe in the alliance (with BJP) as we contested the polls jointly. But the BJP should not compel us to commit the sin of looking for an alternative for government formation," Raut had said.
(With inputs from PTI)