Mumbai/New Delhi: The Shiv Sena on Monday claimed that the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) and Congress have agreed “in-principle” to back its government without the BJP in Maharashtra but failed to get letters of support from the political rivals before the deadline set by the Governor, who rejected its plea for three more days to do so.
As the impasse in government formation entered the 18th day and the prospect of President’s rule loomed, the Congress appeared not wanting to take a hasty decision to align with its ideological rival, and decided to hold further talks with its pre-poll ally NCP on the issue of supporting the Sena.
As the 7.30 pm deadline ended for Shiv Sena, Governor Bhagat Singh Koshyari on Monday night invited the NCP asking it to express “willingness and ability to form government”.
State unit NCP president Jayant Patil said the party will discuss the issue with Congress and get back to the Governor by 8.30 pm on
Tuesday. “As per the procedure, the Governor has given us a letter being the third largest party in the state of Maharashtra and, therefore, we have suggested to him that we will have to talk to our alliance partner,” Patil told reporters.
On Sunday night, the Governor had asked the Shiv Sena to “indicate the willingness and ability” of the party to stake claim, hours after its pre-poll partner and longtime ally BJP declined to form the government.
The Sena, the second largest party in the 288-member House with 56 MLAs after the BJP’s 105 members, had time till 7.30 pm to stake claim on a day marked by hectic parleys with its chief Uddhav Thackeray meeting NCP chief Sharad Pawar and having a telephonic conversation with Congress president Sonia Gandhi. The NCP has 54 MLAs while the Congress has 44.
As Uddhav Thackeray met Pawar at a suburban hotel in Mumbai and the Congress corralled its MLAs in a Jaipur resort, Arvind Sawant, the lone Sena minister in the Union council of ministers submitted his resignation.
Putting up a brave front, Sena leader Aaditya Thackeray told reporters outside Raj Bhavan in Mumbai after meeting the Governor that his party’s claim on formation of a government still stands, as two parties have agreed “in-principle” to support the Sena-led government. He did not take names of the Congress and the NCP.
Aaditya said Governor Koshyari refused to grant more time to the Sena to muster numbers. “We have initiated talks with the two parties. Both the parties have expressed their support in-principle to the Sena,” he said. “We informed the Maharashtra Governor about our willingness to stake a claim for government formation. Shiv Sena MLAs have already issued their support in writing,” he said.
He said the two parties (read NCP and Congress) need few more days to complete their procedures. “Hence we sought time from the Governor but he refused to grant it,” he added.
A Raj Bhavan communique said a delegation of Shiv Sena leaders expressed their willingness to form the government. However, the communique said they could not submit the requisite letters of support. Further, they submitted a letter requesting for three days of extension of the deadline for submitting the letters of support. “The Governor expressed his inability to give any further extension,” the communique said.
Later, another Raj Bhavan statement said that the Governor “today asked the leader of elected members of the third largest party, the Nationalist Congress Party, Ajit Pawar to indicate the willingness and ability of his party to form the government in Maharashtra.”
It said that despite the passage of 16 days after assembly elections, no single party or alliance of parties has come forward with requisite letter of support from alliance partners to form the government.
After two crucial meetings in Delhi, the top leaders of the Congress preferred to have detailed discussions with the NCP on the current political impasse amid reports there were differences within the party over extending support to the Sena.
“The Congress president has spoken to Sharad Pawarji. The party will have further discussions with the NCP,” said a terse statement issued by party general secretary K C Venugopal. “The Congress Working Committee met this morning and held a detailed discussion on the situation in Maharashtra after which a consultation was held with Maharashtra Congress leaders,” the statement said.
Amid a flurry of meetings in Mumbai and in New Delhi, Arvind Sawant signalled his party’s exit from the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) and accused the BJP of reneging on its promise for equal division of seats and power and forcing the Uddhav Thackeray-led party to snap ties. His resignation came after Pawar said the Shiv Sena will have to first snap ties with the NDA so his party can take a call on supporting the saffron outfit. He alleged that the BJP was resorting to “lies” by denying the agreement reached between the leaders of the two allies before the assembly elections.
“I have resigned as Union minister. I have sent my resignation to Prime Minister Narendra Modi,” Sawant said in the national capital, displaying his letter resigning as Union Heavy Industries Minister.
The NCP has said it will decide on whether to support a Sena-led government in coordination with ally Congress. Congress legislators held a meeting with senior party leaders on the issue in Jaipur on Sunday and asserted they did not want fresh elections in the state, party insiders said. Since Congress MLAs are not keen on fresh elections and want to keep the BJP out of power, many favour extending outside support to the Sena, they said.
“We have always maintained distance from the right-wing party which is the Shiv Sena. Their internal differences (with BJP) have precipitated the situation in Maharashtra,” senior Congress leader M M Pallam Raju said.