Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader and Maharashtra chief minister (CM) Devendra Fadnavis resigned from the top post ahead of the end of the current assembly’s tenure ending midnight Friday. Fadnavis met Governor Bhagat Singh Koshyari at the Raj Bhawan and tendered his resignation. The resignation takes Maharashtra a step closer to the possibility of President’s rule since the BJP and Shiv Sena have not been able to break the deadlock on government formation and reach an agreement.
Virtually showing the door to the Shiv Sena, Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis on Friday declared that there was never any talk of sharing the post of the CM between it and his Bharatiya Janata Party.
“There was no talk anytime before me over sharing the post of CM for two-and-half years each between the two parties… (Union Minister) Nitin Gadkari and I spoke with BJP President Amit Shah who also said there was no such commitment on this,” he told the media after submitting his resignation as CM to Governor B.S. Koshyari.
Fadnavis also asserted that the state will soon get a BJP government.
He also deprecated the fact that despite being in government at the Centre and state for the last more than five years, some leaders of the Sena have been continuously targeting BJP leaders, including Prime Minister Narendra Modi, using foul and demeaning language.
“The kind of words and language used by the Sena has never been done even by the Opposition parties. It is regretful. This was not expected of the party which is in alliance at the centre and state, and accepts Modiji as its leader,” Fadnavis said.
“Each and every BJP leader and worker is pained by this. It is wrong on their part… we can’t tolerate such language against our leaders. If they think we cannot give them a reply, they they are mistaken. We can give them a befitting reply in even harsher language, but we restrain ourselves. It’s not in our culture. In such circumstances, it’s difficult to say how to run the government with them,” he added.
Fadnavis also noted that immediately after the election results, Sena President Uddhav Thackeray had stated that all options were open before them for forming the government.
“This was like a big shock for us. We had gone to the people unitedly and the people have voted jointly for the BJP-Sena, under the leadership of Modiji. It was traumatic for us, but I made it clear in the beginning that it will be again a ‘Maha-Yuti’ government,” he added.
Later, he said the Sena started making all kinds of statements, was talking to all other parties but the BJP. Thackeray refused to take his phone calls and “from this, it appears they don’t want to continue the alliance with us”.
However, to a question, he categorically said that this did not mean that the alliance with the Sena is broken and declared it “is very much on.”
Reacting to Fadnavis’ charges, Sena MP Sanjay Raut said that party chief Thackeray would reply to this later in the evening.
Political circles said that Fadnavis’ statement could further complicate the political logjam over government formation in the state as the tenure of the assembly is set to expire on November 9.
The saffron alliance in Maharashtra tottered on the brink as Uddhav Thackeray hit back at the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), virtually calling it a party of “liars”.
Responding to Fadnavis’ statement that there was “no discussion between the BJP and Shiv Sena on sharing the post of Chief Minister”, Thackeray said: “(BJP President) Amit Shah himself gave me this assurance. Now they’re going back on their word. That’s why I have stopped talking to liars.”
Appearing to take the final stage of no return, the Sena chief said: “Giving the state a Sena Chief Minister was a promise I made to my father (the late Bal Thackeray). We don’t need the support of the BJP, Shah or Fadnavis for achieving that.”
He also called upon the BJP to immediately stake claim to form the government as it was the largest single party, failing which “all options are open before the Sena”, which would not abandon the people of Maharashtra.
Maharashtra witnessed another spell of hectic political activity as the tenure of the current legislative assembly set to expire on November 9.
A new face in the form of Hindutva leader Sambhaji Bhide ‘Guruji’ has jumped into the political cauldron and held discussions with Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis at his official residence ‘Varsha’ at Malabar Hill. Bhide declined to speak to the media on what transpired between them.
Incidentally, the 85-year old went to ‘Matoshree’ in Bandra east, the home of Uddhav Thackeray late on Thursday night, but was politely declined a meeting.
A senior party leader later questioned Bhide’s “credentials and locus standi” in the matter of government formation that has become an issue between BJP and Sena.
Sena MP Sanjay Raut said that the party doesn’t need any intermediaries for discussions and the BJP leadership must directly approach the Sena if they have anything to convey. He reiterated the party’s stand on the post of CM and equitable power-sharing as per the formula agreed before the last Lok Sabha elections.
After meeting the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh top brass including its chief Mohan Bhagwat on Thursday, Union Minister Nitin Gadkari arrived in Mumbai where he is likely to hold discussions with the state party leaders on the political deadlock.
The Congress and NCP are holding separate meetings of their legislators to brief them on the developments and ensure nobody becomes a victim of ‘political poaching’ in the coming days.
Both the warring partners – BJP and Sena claim that their government will take office before the deadline of November 9, though neither has staked claim to form the government nor are engaged in formal talks.
The Congress-NCP have already announced that they are ready to sit in the Opposition and urged the BJP-Sena to take steps to form the government and prevent a Constitutional crisis in the state as the prospect of President’s Rule loomed ahead after Saturday.
Even the Vanchit Bahujan Aghadi leader Prakash Ambedkar has urged the Governor to explore the possibility of forming a stable government in the state and end the current stalemate.
Ranked amongst the most politically stable states in the country, in its entire 59-year history, Maharashtra has witnessed spells of President’s Rule only twice – for 112 days in 1980 (Feb-June) and later for 33 days in September-October 2014.
Meanwhile, Union Transport Minister Nitin Gadkari said that an alliance of like-minded Bharatiya Janata Party-Shiv Sena for the government would be in the interests of Maharashtra.
He also endorsed Fadnavis’ statements that there was no talk at any time over sharing the post of CM, as insisted by Sena President Uddhav Thackeray.
“We discussed the issue even with BJP President Amit Shah. He said that after the alliance for Lok Sabha elections was finalized, Thackeray had raised the issue of assembly elections. However, Shah said he got up and said that would be discussed later,” Gadkari said.
Pointing out that the BJP-Sena alliance was the oldest, he said it was on the foundation of Hindutva, Maharashtra and its people, and any alliance with parties holding divergent views do not endure for long.
“We are hopeful that a BJP government will take office with all parties in the ‘Maha-Yuti’. As decided by the Sena founder, the late Bal Thackeray, the party with the highest number of MLAs would get the post of CM. This is also the norm all over the country. Even now, he doors for talks with Shiv Sena are open,” Gadkari said.
He added that the two allies have got the mandate and they must form the government without delay.
Gadkari’s statement came shortly after Fadnavis attacked the Sena on various issues and reiterated that there was no commitment on sharing the post of CM.
Nationalist Congress Party President Sharad Pawar warned of a spell of President’s Rule in Maharashtra unless the warring Bharatiya Janata Party and Shiv Sena come together and form the government.
“Time is short. The BJP-Sena must take steps to give the state a stable government. If they fail to do so, Maharashtra could face a spell of President’s rule which does not augur well for the state,” Pawar told mediapersons.
To a question, the 78-year-old veteran politician said that neither the BJP nor the Sena has asked the NCP to join their government.
“The peoples’ mandate is with them. We are prepared to sit in the Opposition. I cannot comment anything on the Governor’s stance, but feel he must initiate suitable steps in the matter,” Pawar said reiterating his earlier stance.
On his meeting with Union Minister of State for Social Justice Ramdas Athawale, the NCP chief said he had requested him (Athawale) to intervene in the matter since he enjoys a unique status in national politics.
“I had come to seek Pawar Saheb’s advice on how to resolve the crisis, given his standing as an experienced national leader and in the interest of the state,” Athawale said.
The Bharatiya Janata Party has dismissed allegations by the Congress, Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) and Shiv Sena of alleged ‘horse-trading’ of their MLAs and said the party doesn’t indulge in such a business.
BJP Minister Sudhir Mungantiwar said that nobody from the BJP is in contact with legislators from either the Congress, NCP or Shiv Sena and the accusations made against it (BJP) are erroneous.
His rebuttal came shortly after the Maharashtra Congress charged the BJP of alleged attempts at ‘horse-trading’ of its legislators, 24 hours before the tenure of the state Assembly is due to expire on November 9.
“At least half a dozen of our MLAs have received calls from some people claiming to be from the BJP. They are being lured with starting offers of Rs 25 crore each to shift loyalties,” Leader of Opposition in the outgoing assembly, Vijay N. Wadettiwar said.
Though Wadettiwar has declined to name the legislators who had reportedly got such offers or from whom, Igatpuri MLA Hiraman B. Khoskar confirmed the development.
“Yes, I have been approached by some persons with offers to change my loyaltiesa However, I told them that I would not betray my party or my voters,” Khoskar told mediapersons.
However, demanding an apology from those leveling such charges, Mungantiwar said the “state government would be formed anytime” and urged the media to have patience as the BJP has 36 hours before the Assembly tenure expires.
“We are in contact with the Shiv Sena through some common friends. We are hopeful of a breakthrough anytime. Please wait, we shall convey the sweet news to you,” Mungantiwar asserted.
At the Sena Bhavan, Shiv Sena President Uddhav Thackeray reiterated that it was the “people’s desire” to see a Sena chief minister and the party would not budge from its stand, while addressing a meeting of office-bearers and legislators.
Meanwhile, alarmed by the poaching possibilities, the state Congress convened an emergency meeting of all its 44 legislators and instructed them to beware of any such tactics that the ruling party may resort to.
“As a further precaution, we have advised them to record all such mega-offer calls or conversations and send them to the leadership. We shall then expose them before the people,” Wadettiwar said.
To a question, he said though the party has not yet decided to herd all its legislators at any particular location, by evening a decision may be taken on this.
According to some other office-bearers, the susceptible legislators are likely to be shifted to Jaipur (Rajasthan) or Bhopal (Madhya Pradesh) or even Delhi, though the final call is likely to be taken only later on Friday.
The Shiv Sena on Thursday has secured all its 56 legislators at Hotel Rangsharda, a modest hotel in a middle-class locality of southern Bandra and party activists are maintaining a 24×7 watch. (IANS)