Neither the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) nor Shiv Sena, the two pre-poll allies with the numbers to form a government, were unwilling to back down from their stated positions as the clock ticks to Friday midnight deadline when the previous Assembly expires.
There were signs of widening trust deficit between the two allies, with the Sena worried that the BJP could poach its newly-elected legislators. Party mouthpiece Saamana said Sena legislators were being offered “bags of cash”. The Sena moved its legislators to hotel Rangsharda in Bandra, located a couple of kms from Matoshree, the residence of the Thackeray family, and not far from the Shiv Sena party headquarters.
The Congress, which has insisted that it will sit in the Opposition along with ally Nationalist Congress Party (NCP), also expressed similar fears of the BJP trying to wean away its MLAs. The Congress questioned the BJP-Shiv Sena alliance's “moral right” to form government in Maharashtra if the Sena apprehends poaching of its MLAs by its senior ally. The Nationalist Congress Party claimed that MLAs were being approached with inducements for switching camps.
Some of the BJP legislators met Governor Koshyari to discuss “legal aspects” of the delay in formation of a government, but not to stake claim. Speaking to reporters after meeting Koshyari, state BJP chief Chandrakant Patil said, “It is true that it has taken more than normal time to stake claim for government formation in Maharashtra.” “We discussed the legal aspects of the current situation with the governor. We will hold talks with our leaders and decide next course of action,” he said.
In a related development, union minister and senior BJP leader Nitin Gadkari met Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) chief Mohan Bhagwat in Nagpur on Thursday morning, but said his meeting should not be seen in the context of government formation in Maharashtra. On Wednesday, Congress leader Ahmed Patel had called on Gadkari in New Delhi, but said the meeting was to request the minister about road construction in Gujarat.
The Sena remained firm on rotation of the chief minister's post. Sena president Uddhav Thackeray was quoted as saying that the BJP should approach him only if ready to give Sena the CMs post.
On Thursday, Thackeray chaired a meeting of Sena's new MLAs for over an hour, during which the legislators reiterated that the “equal sharing of posts and responsibilities” formula agreed upon before the Lok Sabha polls should be implemented. The Sena MLAs passed a resolution, authorising Uddhav Thackeray to take a “final decision” on government formation in Maharashtra.
“It is necessary for all the MLAs to be together in the prevailing situation. Whatever decision Uddhavji takes will be binding on all of us,” Sena MLA Sunil Prabhu said.
“Threats and blackmailing won't work now,” said Sena Rajya Sabha MP Sanjay Raut.
Maharashtra Advocate General Ashutosh Kumbhakoni met Governor Koshyari at Raj Bhavan amid talk of the latter stepping in to appoint a caretaker CM if nobody stakes claim to form the new government before the present Assembly's term ends.
In Nagpur, Gadkari said Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis should head the new government as he has been elected head of state BJP legislature party, and ruled out his assuming the state's top job.
Anant Kalse, former principal secretary of the state legislature, told a television channel that the onus is on Governor Koshyari to act if no party stakes claim to form the new government. If no party comes forward, the governor can invite the single largest party to form the government, Kalse said. "If that party shows its inability to form the new government, then the governor will invite the second largest party to form the government," Kalse said.
"There is no provision of a caretaker government according to the Constitution but there have been such incidents even at the Centre," he said. "The tenure of a caretaker government is a grey area but the new government will have to be formed soon," Kalse said.
Former Maharashtra Advocate General Shrihari Aney said, it is a "very long time" before one can think of imposing President's rule in the state. "There are many options and actions to be taken before reaching such a decision," Aney said.