Mumbai: The alliance talks between the Shiv Sena and the BJP in Maharashtra appeared to have hit a roadblock on Saturday after the former put the ball in the latter’s court. In a meeting of the newly-elected MLAs of the Sena at party chief Uddhav Thackeray’s residence here, it was decided the party will wait for a written proposal from the senior leaders of the BJP on seat-sharing and alliance.
“We want the BJP to write a letter to us on its letterhead, giving an offer of seat sharing. As per the previous discussion, it has to be a 50-50 seat sharing formula. We will want a rotational chief ministerial term as well. A Shiv Sainik will be Maharashtra's chief minister for 2.5 years. Who that person will be is Uddhav Thackeray's call. We all passed a one-line resolution today, giving all rights of the decision to Uddhav ji,” senior Sena leader Pratap Sarnaik told CNN-News18.
Uddhav Thackeray also said he had “other options open” but is not interested in exploring them since the BJP and the Sena are bound by the “Hindutva ideology”, the MLA added.
The move to demand a written assurance is viewed as a pressure tactic by the Sena in view of the underwhelming performance of the BJP which won 105 seats, a loss of 17 seats compared to its 2014 tally.
According to political observers, the subdued performance of the BJP has increased the bargaining power of the Sena whose tally too came down to 56 seats from the 63 in 2014.
The Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) and the Congress bagged 54 and 44 seats, respectively, in the 288-member House.
Meanwhile, sources within the BJP said there was no question of negotiating on the chief minister’s post.
“We have 105 seats, the Sena has 56. How is it possible that a party with 105 seats will have a deputy chief minister and a party with 56 seats will have a chief minister?” said a BJP source.
Sources said the understanding on the position of deputy chief minister was reached during the Lok Sabha elections itself. The BJP is willing to share that position with the Sena.
But since the Sena now knows it is in the position of the kingmaker, it wants to fuel its aspirations. And it knows that there is no better time than this.
Later on Saturday, Maharashtra BJP chief Chandrakant Patil responded to Sena's claim to the post of chief minister by stating that "everyone has the right to express (their views)".
"We have started government formation talks with the Sena. Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis and Uddhav Thackeray are authorised to take a final decision on it," he said.
Fadnavis also stressed that the BJP was the single-largest party and said that the "BJP-led alliance" will provide a stable government.
Meanwhile, the Congress and the NCP are only happy to see this scenario. They have been trying delay tactics to push ahead the date of the formation of government.
Maharashtra Congress President Balasaheb Thorat on Friday said that he was open to being approached by the Sena if it left the BJP behind. Leader of Opposition Vijay Waddettiwar said that the Sena should choose if they want a deputy chief minister with the BJP or a chief minister after leaving the BJP.
Sources within the Congress admitted that it was nothing but a delay tactic. “Do you think the Sena will show the courage to leave the BJP?” asked a leader.
The speculation about an “interesting possibility” started doing the rounds on the day of the poll verdict when former chief ministers Ashok Chavan and Prithivraj Chavan of the Congress said the party should consider all options to keep the BJP out of power.
Meanwhile, Union Minister and senior BJP leader Raosaheb Danve said that his party was not aware about any equal power sharing deal being proposed by the Sena.
“After Diwali, Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis will discuss the issue of formation of government with Uddhav ji," he said
The verdict came as a shocker for the BJP which had set itself a higher target to secure the absolute majority on its own. The changed scenario has emboldened the Sena which knows well that it is in a position to call shots and endorse Aaditya Thackeray as the CM face. Aaditya, 29, became the first Thackeray since the party was founded in 1960s to enter the poll fray and win. He won from Worli seat in Mumbai, a Sena pocketborough.
On the day of verdict, Thackeray hardened the Sena's stand by reminding the BJP of the 50:50 formula "agreed upon" between Amit Shah, himself and Fadnavis ahead of the 2019 Lok Sabha polls.
"I contested less number of seats for Lok Sabha and assembly elections. I cannot accommodate the BJP everytime. I want to remind the BJP the formula which was worked out in the presence of Amit Shah," Thackeray had said.
According to sources, the formula entails rotational chief ministership between the Sena and the BJP and the equal sharing of Cabinet berths.
(With inputs from agencies)