There were signs of a rapprochement between allies Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and Shiv Sena in Maharashtra over sharing of portfolios in the next government, but the two struggled to agree on the matter of rotational chief ministers.
The tussle between the two allies since the Assembly election results were announced has delayed formation of a government, a Constitutional obligation that has to be fulfilled before November 9 when the term of the current Legislative Assembly ends.
After a meeting of BJP leaders called by Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis at his official residence in Mumbai, Maharashtra Finance Minister Sudhir Mungantiwar said, “A good news regarding government formation can come at any moment.”
BJP state unit President Chandrakant Patil, who also attended the meeting, sought to rule out speculation that Fadnavis could be replaced. “We have extended our complete support to Fadnavis as leader of the legislative wing of the party in Maharashtra," Patil said.
Shiv Sena’s Rajya Sabha MP Sanjay Raut demanded a written assurance from the BJP on rotational chief ministers for 2.5 years each. He also indicated that some deal has been reached between the two allies over the ‘50-50’ power-sharing formula, but not on the question of rational chief ministers. "I haven't heard what they (BJP) leaders said. But if they have indeed spoken about discussing the sharing of the CM post, then I must say it is very understanding of them," Raut told a Marathi TV channel.
However, BJP leader and senior minister in the outgoing government Girish Mahajan said his party was not ready to discuss sharing of the Maharashtra chief minister's post. “We have decided that Devendra Fadnavis would be chief minister for the next five years. The BJP is ready to hold talks with the Sena over other portfolios," Mahajan said, rejecting Raut’s demand. He said a breakthrough will be found in the next two days.
The editorial in party mouthpiece Saamana published on Tuesday said the political direction of Maharashtra will depend on the steps to be taken by the outgoing CM. On Monday, Fadnavis had met BJP chief Amit Shah in New Delhi.
“Government formation is being made messy. Taking advantage of such a situation, it would be unconstitutional to enjoy powers in the role of a caretaker and play games over government formation," the editorial said, seemingly a response to reports that legislators from the Sena and the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) could defect to support a BJP government.
In his comments on Tuesday, Raut, who is also the editor of Saamna, without taking any names, said somebody was trying to prove Shiv Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray a liar and admitted that everyone is "greedy" for power. This was a reference to Thackeray’s claim that Shah and he agreed to a ‘50-50’ power-sharing formula in Maharashtra.
In a related development, Republican Party of India (A) chief Ramdas Athawale said in New Delhi that the Sena should not be "adamant" on its demand for the chief minister's post as it rightly belongs to the BJP. He said senior BJP leader Nitin Gadkari could resolve the impasse. Athawale said the BJP was the single-largest party by some distance and the CM’s post is rightfully that party’s.
Earlier in the day, the NCP tried to put an end to speculation that it might join hands with the Sena. It said an alternative can be worked out if the Sena declared it had snapped ties with the BJP, and Arvind Sawant, the lone Sena minister at Centre, resigned.