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Maharashtra govt formation: Congress says final decision on alliance tomorrow

NCP and Congress seem to be giving final touches to its impending alliance with ideological opponent Shiv Sena to form the government in Maharashtra.

The Congress’s top decision-making body met at party chief Sonia Gandhi‘s home this morning, a day after the party said it is in talks to form a “stable government soon” in Maharashtra but indicated that kinks remain in a possible Shiv Sena-NCP-Congress alliance.

“I think tomorrow we will probably have a decision in Mumbai,” said Congress leader KC Venugopal after the meeting of the Congress Working Committee (CWC).

Sources say Sonia Gandhi was advised to “go ahead” with the Maharashtra alliance, despite her reservations, and told that the “greater enemy, in order to fight communalism, is the BJP”. Final talks may take place in Mumbai.

After meetings on Wednesday with the NCP at its chief Sharad Pawar’s home, the Congress said “some aspects of the alliance” were still to be discussed.

“There can’t be any government in Maharashtra without the Shiv Sena, NCP and Congress. We are trying our best to resolve issues,” said NCP leader Nawab Malik, addressing the media along with Congress leader Prithviraj Chavan, who simply said the talks will continue.

Sources say the three parties have decided on a common agenda but haven’t quite agreed on the terms of power-sharing.

The Congress-NCP talks took place hours after a meeting between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and NCP chief Sharad Pawar, officially on the farm crisis in Maharashtra, which set the cat among the pigeons. Mr. Pawar tweeted after the meeting about inviting PM Modi to a conference.

The 45-minute meeting delivered a pointed message to the Congress, to quit stalling as the opportunity could slip away.

Reports that the BJP is pursuing Mr Pawar’s support – the NCP is only two seats behind the Shiv Sena and can help the BJP cross the majority mark in Maharashtra —  and that the President’s post for the veteran is also on the table may have galvanised the Congress, which sent its leaders to Mr Pawar’s home for talks. The Prime Minister’s shout-out to the NCP during a debate in the Rajya Sabha on Monday also stood out as a big hint.

The formula being discussed involves the Shiv Sena sharing chief ministership with the NCP, with Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray taking the first half. The details include two deputy chief ministers, one from the Congress.

A coordination committee to find common ground between the ideologically mismatched parties is also part of the deal. The Shiv Sena may be asked to tone down its Hindutva rhetoric, which is anathema to the Congress and the reason why Sonia Gandhi’s heart was not in such an alliance. On Wednesday, Sonia Gandhi was urged by Kerala ally Indian Union Muslim League (IUML) not to support the Sena.

The Sena broke up with long-term partner BJP last week after insisting on rotational chief ministership, and pulled out its only minister in PM Modi’s government but stopped short of exiting the National Democratic Alliance (NDA). On November 11, the Sena was about to stake claim to power when the Congress pulled back at the last minute, declaring in a statement that it needed more discussions with Sharad Pawar.

With the top three parties – BJP, Sena and NCP — failing to produce letters of support, Maharashtra was placed under President’s Rule. A week on, a non-BJP alliance is still in making.

Shiv Sena parliamentarian Sanjay Raut said yesterday that “all obstacles had been cleared” and a government would be in place “two-to-five” days.

“When 3 parties form a government, then the process is long. This process has started today. In the coming two to five days, when the process is completed, a government will be formed in Maharashtra,” he told news agency.

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