MUMBAI: Maharashtra may be in for a messy and bitter post-poll drama with Shiv Sena demanding “in writing” an assurance from BJP that the chief minister’s post will be shared by the two parties for 2.5 years each and BJP, which is firm on keeping the post, indicating it will go ahead and stake claim to form the government after choosing its legislature party leader on Wednesday even if Sena doesn’t come around by then.
Hours after Sena presidentUddhav Thackeraysaid at a meeting of the party’s newly elected 56 legislators at his residence on Saturday that he wanted a “written assurance” from BJP on the “50 – 50 formula, ”which also includes equal distribution of cabinet portfolios, high-level sources in BJP said there was no way the ruling party, with its tally of 105, would agree to give the top post to Sena.
According to reports, if Sena does not accept a BJP CM – that is,Devendra Fadnavis, whose name has already been endorsed by PM Modi and BJP chiefAmit Shah– Fadnavis may lead aminority governmentas he had done initially in 2014. Though BJP was then in a minority, Fadnavis had staked claim following unconditional support offered by Sharad Pawar’s NCP on the very day the results were announced. BJP and Sena had contested the 2014 state polls separately and won 122 and 63 seats respectively.
A senior BJP person said, “There is no question of giving the CM’s post. We do not think there was an agreement with Amit Shah on sharing of the CM’s post after the 2019 assembly polls. ”
But from Matoshree, Thackeray issued a thinly-veiled threat: he was quoted by Sena MLA Pratap Sarnaik saying he hoped the party would not be forced “to consider other options ”.
Thackeray told legislators that the Sena would not let the BJP approach the governor to stake claim unless a final decision on the post-poll pact was taken. The term of the assembly ends on November 8.
Senior BJP functionaries, on the other hand, pointed out that since their party had emerged as the single largest, governorBhagat Singh Koshyariwould have to invite the leader of its legislature party to form government. “While it’s a fact that BJP and Sena contested the assembly elections jointly, convention requires the governor to invite the leader of the largest party,” he said.
Once Fadnavis is installed as CM, he will have to prove majority on the floor of the house within the stipulated period in keeping with the governor’s directions. BJP does not expect any great difficulty in proving its majority on the floor of the house, claiming that several Independents have extended their support to the party. When the results were declared on Thursday, Fadnavis had said his party was in touch with 15 Independents who were BJP-Sena rebels and that he was confident of bringing them back into the saffron fold.
Sources said most of the Independents have given their consent in writing to the CM. “The BJP thinks it can establish its majority by voice vote,” they said.
In the subsequent months, the BJP expects a section of opposition members to come to its rescue. “In 2014, the NCP had offered support, and now too, the party thinks one group or the other will come out in support of the BJP for a stable government. No one is keen on mid-term polls, ”sources in the party said.
Soon after Fadnavis had formed his government in 2014, the Sena abandoned the opposition benches and joined the government.
Leader of opposition in the outgoing assembly Vijay Vadettiwar of the Congress said it was for the Sena to take the lead if it wanted to keep the BJP out of power, fueling speculation of whether the Congress and NCP would back the Sena if it walked out of the saffron alliance. However, NCP chief Sharad Pawar reiterated on Saturday that the NCP “will sit in opposition as mandated by the people.”
The newly-elected Sena MLAs insisted that Uddhav’s 29 – year-old son Aaditya Thackeray, who won his debut poll from Worli on Thursday, should take up the CM’s post. However, there was no discussion on the appointment of Sena’s legislature party leader, Sarnaik said while briefing the media after the meeting.
Immediately after the election results were out on Thursday, Uddhav at a presser brought up the 50 – 50 formula that he claimed had been settled at a meeting between him, BJP chief Amit Shah and Devendra Fadnavis before this yearLok Sabhaelections. He said that for the assembly polls, he had agreed to fight fewer seats to accommodate the BJP when the latter asked him to consider the “problems” it was facing, but he “couldn’t resolve the BJP’s problems always.”
CM Fadnavis had told mediapersons the same day that the pact finalized between the allies would be implemented, though he refused to specify details of the pact. Late on Saturday evening, Fadnavis said that “we (BJP, Sena and the BJP’s smaller allies) have won the popular mandate and will provide a stable government.”
A Sena leader who did not wish to be named said the party was trying hard to get the CM’s post but in case the BJP didn’t budge, it would accept the post of deputy CM along with some plum portfolios, with more Sainiks as cabinet ministers than in the previous Fadnavis-led BJP-Sena government. The Sena had five cabinet ministers and seven ministers of state between 2014 and 2019.