It’s about 17 days now, the Maharashtra Assembly Poll results have been declared and the state is still struggling to form the Government. Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has managed to secure 105 seats and its very old ally Shiv Sena has bagged 56 seats out of 288 seats in the state.
Now, the delay is due to the Political deadlock between BJP and Shiv Sena. The Shiv Sena has been demanding the implementation of 50:50 power-sharing formula which it claims includes sharing of Cabinet portfolios and the post of Chief Minister for 2.5 years. On the other hand, the BJP holds with the statement that no such promises were made by them.
“We fought the assembly election in alliance with Shiv Sena and won 160 seats of which the BJP emerged as the single largest party with 105 MLAs. Our strike rate has been better as we won 70 per cent of the seats we contested,” said Fadnavis. “We never took a decision of rotational chief ministership, at least it didn’t happen in my presence. When I asked the party’s national president about it he also denied of giving any assurance in this regard to Shiv Sena,” added Fadnavis. “In the last five years, I had a very good relation with Uddhav Thackeray. Politics and personal relations are two separate things,” he further added.
Just after the poll result, the Shiv Sena had demanded a written letter from BJP, mentioning about the 50:50 power sharing formula and the Chief Minister’s seat for 2.5 years. “We want the BJP to write a letter to us on its letterhead, giving an offer of seat sharing. As per the previous discussion, it has to be a 50-50 seat sharing formula. We will want a rotational chief ministerial term as well. A Shiv Sainik will be Maharashtra’s chief minister for 2.5 years. Who that person will be is Uddhav Thackeray’s call. We all passed a one-line resolution today, giving all rights of the decision to Uddhav ji,” senior Sena leader Pratap Sarnaik told one of the News channels.
After the BJP’s denial to Shiv Sena’s 50:50 power sharing formula, the latter stayed firm on their stand which led the political tussle situation in the state and as a result, the Government formation is on the standstill now. “We will not step back from our stand. If anyone has gone back on their promise, it is our ally. We will continue to move forward with our demand,” said Sanjay Raut, Shiv Sena Member of Parliament (MP) and party spokesperson.
In the ongoing political struggle in the state, the other party leaders are also playing a major role with extending their support to one of the parties. Speaking to the media, state Congress president Balasaheb Thorat said that the governor is going to play a crucial role now, and he must go by precedents. “There is an unprecedented political situation in the state. We thought Fadnavis will stake claim, but he resigned. We listened to Fadnavis and (Sena chief) Uddhav Thackeray (who held separate press conferences) with curiosity and realised that the situation is not good,” Thorat said.
Congress leader and former chief minister Prithviraj Chavan also said that it was clear that the BJP cannot form the next government, and so all eyes were on the governor. “How long Fadnavis can stay as caretaker CM and what steps the governor takes to provide relief and assistance to farmers (who are hit by unseasonal rain), it remains to be seen,” he said.
Meanwhile, Nationalist Congress Party’s (NCP) Maharashtra unit chief, Jayant Patil, said that the BJP and Shiv Sena have not announced snapping of ties yet and they may still come together to form the government in the state. Patil reiterated that the NCP will sit in the opposition. He said that Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis, also BJP legislature party leader, resigned and it shows that the party cannot cobble up the numbers, adding that the Shiv Sena might be invited to form the government. “There is no question of us extending support to it (Sena). We are in the opposition. The BJP will support them,” Patil told a news channel when asked on NCP supporting the Shiv Sena in forming the government.
Kishore Tiwary, who left BJP and joined Shiv Sena just before the Assembly polls wrote a letter to Sangh Chief Mohan Bhagwat and insisted to embroil Union Minister Nitin Gadkari in the situation. He wrote that Gadkari can resolve the matter within 2 hours. “Gadkari will be able to resolve the situation within two hours,” farm activist Tiwary said via his letter.
However, Nitin Gadkari said, “There is still time. I feel, for the welfare of people, BJP-Shiv Sena should come together to form government. As far as 50-50 formula issue is concerned, no such promise was made by Amit Shah ji,” he said. “When I asked BJP national president Amit Shah, he said after the Lok Sabha elections, Shiv Sena had proposed the formula but they were told that this was not the right time to talk,” he added.
“There is still time. Our alliance’s biggest strength is Hindutva and I still think that BJP and Sena should get together for the betterment of Maharashtra,” Gadkari said. “Our alliance with Sena has been successful for the longest time. It is Shiv Sena’s perogative to decide whether they want to remain in alliance,” he added.
Senior Leader and NCP Supremo had indeed a major role to play in the ongoing political turmoil. Amidst this difficult situation in the state, NCP Chief Sharad Pawar met Congress’ interim President Sonia Gandhi. However, addressing the media after the meeting, he said, “NCP-Congress had been mandated to sit in the opposition. Also we don’t have numbers.” “Only those who have numbers should form the government,” he added.
Moreover, the four smaller allies of the saffron alliance expressed confidence in the leadership of Maharashtra chief minister Devendra Fadnavis.
Union Minister Ramdas Athawale who addressed a press conference on behalf of these smaller parties said that the state needs a good chief minister that will complete the tenure of five years. “What one wants now is a chief minister who will complete his term of five years successfully. BJP, the senior partner in the alliance has chosen Devendra Fadnavis as their legislative party leader. We all support him,” Athawale said.
“While the Shiv Sena is firm on its 50:50 demand, the BJP is learnt to have extended an offer of 13 cabinet berths to them. The offer is justified as the smaller allies too should get their share of the power,” Athawale added.
In the meantime, in a series of tweets, BJP’s national organisational secretary, BL Santhosh, has said that “all issues raised in last one week” were cleared by Devendra Fadnavis in one press brief. “Maharashtra CM @Dev_Fadnavis makes it clear that there was no discussion on 50:50 formula …All issues raised in last one week cleared by him in one press brief .. Calls the bluff of many a concocted stories ..” Santosh had tweeted.
Maharashtra CM @Dev_Fadnavis makes it clear that there was no discussion on 50:50 formula …All issues raised in last one week cleared by him in one press brief .. Calls the bluff of many a concocted stories ..
— B L Santhosh (@blsanthosh) November 8, 2019
“Day in and day out of accusations, attacks in media, editorials falls flat after one press brief,” Santosh said, adding that the Sena is now “staring at hard truth”.
“No relationship will sustain when someone uses words like ‘BJP has to bow down in front of us’. This attitude of trying to talk to allies through media for one full week strained relationship,” Santosh said.
No relationship will sustain when someone uses words like “ BJP has to bow down in front of us “.. This attitide of trying to talk to allies thru’ media for one full week strained relationship … @BJP4Maharashtra
— B L Santhosh (@blsanthosh) November 8, 2019
On the other hand, Sena Chief Uddhav Thackeray lambasted BJP and Devendra Fadnavis for turning down the alleged agreement of 50:50 power sharing formula and also sharing office of Chief Minister for 2.5 years. “We don’t consider BJP our enemy but now they are going back on the word. We considered you as brothers and this is how you treated us?” infuriated Uddhav Thackeray said.
“I will not speak to Fadnavis till he speaks the truth on equal share in power,” he added. “It is very sad that while cleaning the Ganga, their minds became polluted. I felt bad that we entered into an alliance with the wrong people,” said Uddhav Thackeray. “We had never closed the doors for discussion, they (BJP) lied to us so we did not talk to them. We have not yet held talks with the NCP,” Thackeray continued. “Will fulfill promise made to my father to install Sena CM, don’t need Shah, Fadnavis for that,” he then showed his determination of making a Sena leader the CM.
“We are firm on demand for CM’s post,” added the Sena Suprmo.
“We have honoured every single commitment for the cause of nationalism, Hindutva and Ram Mandir, but how can we talk to them if they go back on their word,” Uddhav Thackeray said. “Modi had called me younger brother just two months back during campaign. Now things have come down to this. I’m deeply hurt. They are lying now when they say that there was no agreement on equal share of power,” Thackeray blamed Modi.
“I’m saying it again, we were open to dialogue. But if someone calls the son of Balasaheb Thackeray a liar, my conscience doesn’t allow me to talk to the person,” said Thackeray. “If they call me a liar, in future also I will not keep any relationship with the BJP,” he continued.
On the other hand, referring to Uddhav Thackeray’s comments, Fadnavis said, “It is understandable if the Opposition criticises us. But such criticism from allies is not acceptable. The way the Sena has criticised Modi ji, no other party, including the Congress, has ever done that.” “People around Uddhav Thackeray are making irresponsible statements. Government cannot be formed under such circumstances,” he added.
“I personally called Uddhav Thackeray so many times, but he never responded. We were always ready to discuss. But they were not ready. They had time to discuss things with the Congress and the NCP, but they did not have time for us,” Devendra Fadnavis said.
According to the reports, State party president of BJP, Chandrakant Patil, commented after the meeting at the residence of caretaker Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis. “The committee reviewed the current political situation. The people of Maharashtra have voted for a BJP-Sena coalition, and we will give due respect to this mandate,” Patil was quoted as saying in media reports. The committee, which includes Girish Mahajan and Sudhir Mungantiwar, is on standby to negotiate with the Sena, but if no proposal comes within few days, the BJP is gearing up for imposition of President’s rule.
Senior BJP leader Vinod Tawde met Governor Koshyari after the meeting and apprised him of the party’s position. “We are willing to play a wait and watch game with the Sena,” the senior minister of the BJP said.
Mungantiwar said that the party is open to begin talks, and the core committee will meet again to discuss future parleys. “You will soon get the good news on government formation,” he said. The BJP has already forwarded its proposal to the Sena to begin talks on all fronts, except the “non-negotiable” post of the Chief Minister, a source told The Hindu newspaper.
Lately, Fadnavis also flew to Nagpur and met RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat. RSS functionaries in Nagpur were tight-lipped about what transpired at the meeting, though it is being speculated that the meeting was about the political impasse in the State. “This statement (from the BJP) is a sign of maturity. Had they done this earlier, we would have formed government by now,” said Sena leader and Rajya Sabha MP Sanjay Raut. “All the Sena is saying is do as was decided, nothing more,” Raut said.
From the last few days, a tussle is going on between the BJP and its ally Shiv Sena over government formation in the state. The two parties are caught in a stalemate over the chief minister’s post, with the Sena demanding an equal division of the top post’s tenure and the BJP rejecting it outrightly.
It would be interesting to know what happens in future. Will the Shiv Sena bow down or the BJP will have to do something to appease its oldest ally. Stay in touch to have more insights about the Maharashtra political tussle.