Shiv Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray is the choice of the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) and the Congress to lead the alliance in Maharashtra, NCP chief Sharad Pawar said in Mumbai on Friday after a meeting between leaders of the three parties.
There was no official confirmation from the Sena on whether Thackeray has accepted the demand, but its leader Sanjay Raut had said earlier in the day that the people of Maharashtra wanted his party chief to be CM. Congress leader Prithviraj Chavan refused to elaborate on what Pawar said, but added that the three parties had reached a consensus on several issues, and that discussions would continue on Saturday.
People in the know said the three parties would hold a joint press conference on Saturday, and also unveil the common minimum programme.
Consensus, however, has eluded on some issues, including on whether the Congress gets the Speaker’s post in the Assembly. The Congress has insisted on the post.
“The issue of leadership is not pending. There is consensus on Uddhav Thackeray leading the new government,” Pawar said after coming out of the meeting at Nehru Science Centre in Worli. It was not clear if he will be CM for the full five-year term, or if the NCP and Sena will share the post for 2.5 years each.
Asked specifically if Thackeray would be the CM, Pawar shot back: "Don't you understand Hindi? The new government will be led by Uddhav Thackeray!" Coming out of the meeting, Thackeray told reporters that the talks were satisfactory and few details were still being discussed.
Meanwhile, Raut added that his party wouldn’t side with the BJP even if it offered Lord Indra’s throne. “The time for offers has ended,” Raut said, when asked about reports that the BJP had agreed to share the CM’s post.
Thackeray met his party's legislators on Friday and told them that the process of forming a Sena-led dispensation was in the final stages. Thackeray instructed the MLAs to stay together in Mumbai, as they may be required at any time, an MLA said.
The Congress and NCP said that their smaller allies had backed the idea of supporting Sena to keep the principal enemy BJP out of power.
The Congress and NCP held a meeting with their pre-poll allies Samajwadi Party, the RPI (Kawade faction), the RPI (Kharat faction), Raju Shetti-led Swabhimani Paksha, the Peasants and Workers' Party (PWP), the CPI(M), and the Janata Dal.
Calling the alliance “opportunistic”, senior BJP leader and Union minister Nitin Gadkari said the government would not last beyond eight months.