“Want to ask Sanjay Raut how he will get 170”: Sharad Pawar Snubs Sena

Sharad Pawar's meeting with Shiv Sena leader Sanjay Raut that revived speculation of a political realignment to form government in Maharashtra.

Amid the stand-off with ally Bharatiya Janata Party over government formation, Shiv Sena leader Sanjay Raut met Nationalist Congress Party chief (NCP) Sharad Pawar, fuelling speculations that the Sena is scrambling for alternate arrangements to come to power, if BJP does not yield to its demands. This was the second such meeting between the two leaders since the deadlock in the state.

While, Raut categorically denied there being any political undercurrent to the meeting and termed it a ‘courtesy call’, Pawar in a press conference snubbed Sena’s attempts to reach out to the party and publically clarified that NCP was not interested in forming the government.

Pawar maintained that the mandate was for Shiv Sena and BJP to form the government in Maharashtra, and they should do that as soon as possible. Responding to reporters, Pawar clarified, “I have no role to play in government formation, except that of urging them to form the government as soon as possible.”

Pawar said that the BJP-Shiv Sena alliance was mandated to form the government, and he was positive that the two allies will finally be able to settle all their differences.

The Sena has been flirting with all possibilities to form government as BJP, the larger partner in the Mahayuti alliance, has refused to accommodate Sena’s demand for a split chief minister’s term.

“He is a senior leader of the state and the country. He is worried about the political situation in Maharashtra today. We had a brief discussion,” Raut told reporters after meeting Pawar. Raut had refused to comment on whether the NCP has agreed to share the chief minister’s post.”We will talk about it,” he said.

Media reports also claimed that Pawar had a phone call with Uddhav Thackeray to discuss government formation in Maharashtra.

The NCP had on Tuesday said a political alternative can be worked out in the state if the Shiv Sena declared that it had snapped ties with the BJP. Sources in the NCP said their party wants Arvind Sawant, the lone Shiv Sena minister in the Union government, to resign before going ahead further with the Sena.

Given the circumstances, it is ironic that in the 2014 elections, the NCP had offered unconditional ‘outside support’  to the BJP after it stopped shy of the majority mark by 22 seats.

Meanwhile, there has been no headway in government formation after results of the 21 October Assembly polls were declared on 24 October and Sena and BJP crossed the halfway mark of 145 by winning 161 seats together. Neither Shiv Sena nor the BJP is ready to bow down on the question of the chief minister’s post.

While BJP has already clarified that Devendra Fadnavis will lead the next government in Maharashtra, Sena has been repeating that it was promised a 50:50 power sharing formula, with an equal stake in governance.

Raut told reporters that no fresh proposal has been received from the BJP or sent to it. He claimed farmers and the working class want a Shiv Sena chief minister and have hopes and expectations from the Uddhav-led party.

“Why waste time on new proposals. We want a discussion on what was agreed upon earlier. No new proposal has been received or sent,” he said.

To a question on when there would be a consensus on the chief minister’s post, the Rajya Sabha member said, “There was a consensus on the post before elections.” Ruling out any new proposal for government formation, Raut reiterated that the Shiv Sena expects implementation of what was decided and agreed upon before the elections.

He said wherever Uddhav Thackeray and his son Aaditya Thackeray, who won the state polls from Worli seat in Mumbai, were touring to review crop losses due to unseasonal rains, the farmers and working class were looking at the party with hopes and expectations. “All are eager to have chief minister from the Shiv Sena,” he said.

On the possibility of imposition of President’s Rule in the state, Raut said, “We will not be responsible for it. Those conspiring to do this are insulting the people’s mandate.”

The BJP, which won 105 seats, and the Shiv Sena, which bagged 56 seats, are locked in a bitter tussle over sharing of the chief minister’s post and ministerial portfolios in new government, even 13 days after the Assembly poll verdict handed them enough seats to cobble up a coalition government. They won 161 seats together in the 288-member House, much above the halfway mark of 145.

Besides, the opposition NCP won 54 seats while the Congress got 44 seats.