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Maha impasse: Marathi publication likens Raut to 'Betaal'

Amid the stalemate over government formation in Maharashtra, a Marathi daily, widely seen inclined towards the RSS, on Monday likened Shiv Sena leader Sanjay Raut to 'Betaal', the mythological ghost known for challenging King Vikramaditya with his witty riddles.

Coming down heavily on Raut, Tarun Bharat, the Nagpur-based publication believed to be close to the Sangh and its political extension BJP, said he was hurting the chances of BJP-Sena alliance to come to power in Maharashtra.

Without naming Raut, it called him a "joker" and said "his attempts to portray a picture that Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis is isolated in the BJP is nothing but pure entertainment".

Raut, the Sena's Rajya Sabha member and executive editor of its mouthpiece 'Saamana', has been at the forefront of voicing his party's demands over equal distribution of power and sharing the chief minister's post with the BJP in the next Maharashtra government.

He mocked the BJP on multiple occasions by asking questions like "Itna sannata kyon hai bhai..." (why is there so much silence), using the popular dialogue from Bollywood blockbuster "Sholay", on the economic slowdown.

On Monday, Tarun Bharat published an editorial titled 'Uddhav and Betaal'. The term 'Betaal' is also used in Marathi where it means a person indulging in loose talks.

"Late Balasaheb Thackeray spent his entire life for wresting power from the Congress and NCP. But this Betaal is trying hard to shatter his dreams and there will be no disappointment like this to see the Sena dragging behind one loud-mouth," the Marathi daily said.

Referring to Mahabharat, it said the Sena leader's first name - Sanjay - was also that of a character from the epic who gave a "live relay" of the war between the Pandavas and Kauravas to blind King Dritharashtra.

"Sanjay's job is to provide valuable inputs. But he himself is turning a blind eye, then there is need to worry about the Sena's future," the editorial said in remarks laced with sarcasm.

The Shiv Sena must be aware of the fact that one who cuts a branch while sitting on it is not a wood-cutter but "sheikh chilli" (a comic character known for his vain boasts), it quipped.

"The BJP as single largest party can always stake claim for government formation and it will get time to win the vote of confidence till the next session of both Houses. The mandate is for the 'Mahayuti' (BJP-Sena alliance) and going by the number of seats won, people have decided who is the big brother between them," it said.

There is a message behind why the BJP is not staking claim for government formation, as the party knows the meaning of the mandate, the publication said.

Unlike the last Assembly elections, the BJP and the Shiv Sena this time fought elections in alliance with each other. The BJP won 105 seats and the Shiv Sena 56.

The editorial wondered if the Shiv Sena, while being the senior ally during its term in power with the BJP in 1995-99, ever thought of sharing the chief minister's post at that time.

Till 2009, the post of leader of the opposition (LoP) was also with the Sena, despite the BJP for the first time getting one seat more than the Uddhav Thackeray-led party, it pointed out.

How can a party which stuck to the numbers while taking the post of LoP now demand chief ministership (while having lesser number of seats than its ally)? the editorial asked.