The incumbent chief minister of Maharashtra Devendra Fadnavis was elected the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) legislative party leader in a party meeting held in Mumbai on Wednesday. Fadnavis thanked Shiv Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray for his support and gave an assurance that a government will be formed soon. He dubbed the rumours of an 'alternate formula' being worked out to form the state government as "entertainment". "The mandate of voters of Maharashtra is for the 'Mahayuti' (BJP-Shiv Sena alliance). Hence the 'Mahayuti' is going to form its government soon in the state," Fadnavis said. The power tussle between the BJP and Shiv Sena, partners in the coalition government in the state, began soon after the results of the Assembly election were announced on 24 October. Leaders of both parties have provided arguments and counter-arguments in support of their demands.
In the backdrop of the tussle between the BJP and Shiv Sena over the CM’s post, the BJP elected former Maharashtra CM Devendra Fadnavis as the leader of the legislature party on Wednesday.
The BJP legislature party met in Mumbai on Wednesday afternoon, a day after Fadnavis asserted that he would be the chief minister for the next five years, without giving out details on how the BJP will form the government. However, soon after his election, Fadnavis asserted, the mandate is for “grand alliance” of Sena-BJP and the two will form the government.
But Tuesday was marked with day-long exchange of rhetoric and counter-rhetoric between the two parties. First, Sena leader Sanjay Raut alleged the BJP was “stooping low”. Then Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis issued a statement rejecting Shiv Sena’s claim of 50-50 formula, which they have been adamant about.
Later on Tuesday evening, Shiv Sena cancelled its meeting with the BJP leadership, including close aide of Amit Shah, Bhupendra Yadav, to iron out differences.
Even after five days of the Maharashtra Assembly results, the BJP-Shiv Sena combine failed to stake its claim to form the government, with Sena flaunting “other options” and BJP claiming Sena MLAs who are ready to come on board with BJP.
To appease Shiv Sena, the BJP may offer to increase its share in the state and the Centre. Giving two ministerial posts in the Union cabinet to Sena is being actively explored. If Sena agrees to it, an immediate Union cabinet expansion may take place, soon after the oath-taking ceremony in Maharashtra.
The BJP is also willing to give the Deputy Chief Minister’s post in the state to Sena. A state party leader said that the BJP knew they would have to offer a Deputy CM’s post to Sena when the BJP tally couldn’t cross 120, as predicted by the party. “From the result day, we were clear that we are offering a Deputy CM’s post to the Sena”, said the BJP leader based in Mumbai.
As much as 40% share in the state cabinet is also likely to be offered by BJP to its warring partner, who is leaving no stone unturned, including using editorials in its mouthpiece Saamna, to target BJP. This will be a major climbdown by the saffron party.
This bouquet of three offers is what the BJP is likely to offer to Sena, as the two sit across the negotiating table to end the post-result drama. But one thing at least three BJP leaders have stressed is that there will be no sharing of the Chief Minister’s post, come what may.
The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is not surprised by Shiv Sena’s attitude on government formation in Maharashtra. Party leaders said negotiations and demands usually happen in politics and “everyone tries to make use of opportunities”.
BJP leaders also asserted that despite all differences, the Shiv Sena will eventually come on the same page with the saffron party to form the government.
“It’s not a bad thing to place demands in politics. Shiv Sena has got an opportunity, and they are doing that. Their job is to demand, and our job is to solve the differences,” a BJP national spokesperson said.
“Even after parting ways in 2014, and contesting elections separately, we had eventually come together to form the government. And this time, we contested the polls together. There is no questions of any separation again,” he said.
Sources say the top leadership of BJP has told Shiv Sena that it won’t be getting the post of Chief Minister, and will have to remain content with the post of Deputy Chief Minister.
A top BJP leader said: “Shiv Sena knows it very well that they won’t get the post of CM. However, they are doing the politics of pressure over the issue. By creating pressure over the CM post, the party is trying to bag key departments like that of Finance and Home. Aditya Thackeray’s stature is not higher than a Deputy CM’s.”
Sources say BJP and Shiv Sena are also compelled to stay together to mitigate any challenge posed by Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) chief Sharad Pawar.
“Shiv Sena may talk about having their options open but they are also aware that if Congress-NCP comes together to form the government, their (Sena’s) aggressive Hindu politics would be affected,” a BJP leader said.
According to sources, the BJP may also concede CM post to Aditya Thackeray to keep itself in power and to avoid a Congress-NCP coalition. But Shiv Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray also fears that if Aditya-led government collapses, it would be ‘political feticide’. Keeping this in mind, Uddhav believes it would be a good idea to form the government with the BJP after bagging key departments.
Sources believe the BJP does not have many options as well. It won’t form the government with the Congress in any circumstances. And the BJP-NCP relation further soured after Enforcement Directorate’s action against Sharad Pawar during the election season.
The NCP also believes that aligning with the BJP would look like attaining a shield for itself against the central agencies.
Considering the entire scenario, sources say a BJP-Shiv Sena government would eventually be formed.
Amid the drill to form the government, the BJP Legislative Party meeting is scheduled to be held on Wednesday in Mumbai wherein Devendra Fadnavis’ name would be approved for the post of Chief Minister.
According to BJP sources, party president Amit Shah would hold talks with Uddhav Thackeray to iron out differences. (IANS)