With ally Shiv Sena unwilling to blink, Maharashtra Chief Minister (CM) Devendra Fadnavis on Thursday held a meeting with eight of the 13 newly elected Independents and legislators of three of the smaller parties. The majority mark still eludes the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) by 26 legislators in a House of 288, despite these 13 MLAs vowing support to a Fadnavis-led BJP government.
The next Maharashtra Assembly needs to be convened by November 10. The term of the previous Assembly expires on November 9.
The Sena rejected media reports that it has softened its stand on its two key demands of ‘50:50’ power-sharing formula and rotational CM tenure. It accused the BJP of enacting a ‘second act’ of the ‘use and throw’ policy in dealing with its ally.
“The (reports that) Sena has softened (its stand), has compromised and relinquished equitable distribution of posts, are all rumours,” Sena MP Sanjay Raut tweeted. “Whatever was decided (between BJP and Sena), will happen,” said Raut.
Raut later in the day also meet Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) chief Sharad Pawar at the latter’s residence in Mumbai. Raut said he had gone to meet Pawar to wish him on the occasion of Diwali, but also discussed the current political scenario of Maharashtra.
The developments during the course of the day made it evident that a Fadnavis-led BJP government is set to face stiff opposition not just from the Congress and NCP, but also from the Sena.
The Sena’s Aaditya Thackeray led his senior colleagues to call on Governor Bhagat Singh Koshyari to demand that “a wet drought” be announced in the state owing to unseasonal rain in various parts. Aaditya and other Sena leaders submitted a memorandum to the governor, seeking ‘all possible help’ to farmers and fishermen affected by heavy rains.
The Sena delegation included Maharashtra minister Eknath Shinde, who was earlier in the day re-elected the party leader in the state legislature. At the party meeting, Shinde’s candidature was proposed by Aaditya, whose name was also doing the rounds for the post.
Sena sources said party chief and Aaditya’s father Uddhav was not keen to appoint his son as the head of the Sena’s legislative unit. On Thursday evening, staff of the Sena-controlled Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation removed hoardings outside Matoshree, the Thackeray family residence in suburban Bandra, which read: ‘Only Aaditya Thackeray as CM of Maharashtra’.
At the meeting of the Sena’s MLAs, party chief Uddhav expressed ‘disappointment’ over CM Fadnavis’ statement that the BJP had not promised ‘50:50’ formula for power-sharing in Maharashtra, sources said. Uddhav stressed that he intended to get a larger share of power in the alliance government, compared to the 2014 arrangement. The Sena chief also told his party’s legislators that the BJP so far has not offered any power-sharing formula for government formation.
Maharashtra Congress leaders met NCP chief Pawar. The meeting was to discuss the strategy of the alliance partners. Maharashtra Congress chief Balasaheb Thorat said leaders of the two parties discussed the damage caused by withdrawing monsoon rains to crops in various parts of the state. The NCP legislators also held a meeting, as did the Congress MLAs. At the Congress meeting, Thorat asked legislators to raise people’s issues, including drought and flood.
Outside the NCP office, a banner declared that Maharashtra’s history shows it never bows before the ‘throne of Delhi’, echoing Pawar’s statement when the Enforcement Directorate named him in a money laundering case in September.
“Maharashtra follows the ideology of Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj. We don’t bow before the Delhi ‘takht’ (throne),” Pawar had said on September 25. In the aftermath, Pawar conducted a whirlwind tour, rejuvenating his party enfeebled by several of its second-rung leaders joining the Sena and BJP, with the NCP winning 54 seats to Congress’ 44.
According to a statement from his office, Fadnavis met state BJP unit chief Chandrakant Patil, other senior party leaders, eight of the 13 Independents who have assured support to a BJP-led government, as also Bahujan Vikas Aghadi’s (BVA’s) MLA Kshitij Thakur, Shyamsundar Shinde of Peasants and Workers Party (PWP), and Vinayak Kore of Jan Surajya Shakti party. The BVA has three MLAs, while PWP and Jan Surajya Shakti have one each.
According to the statement, all these MLAs ‘expressed their firm support to the leadership of Fadnavis’. The CM discussed the drought and flood situation and steps his government has taken to assist farmers.