Maha impasse: BJP declines, Guv invites Sena to stake claim

Maha impasse: BJP declines, Guv invites Sena to stake claim (EDS: Inserting words in the second para) Mumbai, Nov 10 (PTI) Hours after the BJP declined toform government in Maharashtra on Sunday, Governor BhagatSingh Khoshyari on Sunday night asked the Shiv Sena to'indicate the willingness and ability' of the party to stakeclaim, mounting suspense over formation of government.

The Sena, which is the second largest party in the288-member House with 56 MLAs after the BJP (105), has timetill 7:30 PM on November 11, to stake the claim, even as theNCP and the Congress refused to revel their cards onsupporting it.

Koshyari asked Sena legislative party leader EknathShinde to 'indicate willingness and ability' of the party toform government in Maharashtra, a Raj Bhavan statement said.

After the governor's communication, newly-elected SenaMLAs, currently staying at a suburban hotel in Mumbai, wentinto a huddle. They later moved to Matoshree, the Bandraresidence of the party chief Uddhav Thackeray, for anothermeeting.

The fast-paced developments seem to have increased thebargaining power of opposition Congress and NCP, as the Sena,which has 56 MLAs, is far away from the halfway mark of 145.

A day after the governor asked the BJP to indicate itswillingness and ability to form government, caretaker ChiefMinister Devendra Fadnavis informed him about the party'sinability to do so due to lack of enough numbers.

The role of the Congress (44 MLAS) and the NCP (54MLAs) which have 98 members together, is crucial now.

If the Sena decides to form a government with thesupport of Opposition parties, the collective strength of allthe three parties will go up to 154 in the House, just abovethe halfway mark.

While the Congress refused to open its cards, the NCPmade it clear that the Sena would have to break away from theNDA before the Sharad Pawar-led party can think of lendingsupport to the Uddhav Thackeray's party.

However, Sena leader Sanjay Raut appeared unfazed andsaid his party would install its chief minister at any cost.

Sharing of power, especially the post of the chiefminister on a rotational basis, was the bone of contentionbetween the Sena and the BJP which resulted into a deadlock.

The Sena and the BJP have been locked in a bittertussle over sharing of the post of the chief minister sincethe last 16 days when the results of the assembly polls wereannounced.

Fadnavis had rejected Thackeray's claims that BJPchief Amit Shah was agreed to his demand for a rotationalchief ministership ahead of Lok Sabha polls.

Announcing the party's decision to not form governmenton Sunday evening, state BJP chief Chandrakant Patil accusedthe Uddhav Thackeray-led party of 'disrespecting' the popularmandate secured by the NDA in recent assembly polls.

The governor had on Saturday invited the BJP to'indicate the willingness and ability' to form government byvirtue of it being the single largest party.

In fact, Patil wished 'good luck' to the Sena to goahead and form a government with the support of the Congressand the NCP.

'We contested together but the Sena does not want tocome with us to form government. The mandate of the people ofMaharashtra was for the BJP-Shiv Sena alliance. Sena has,however, disrespected the mandate, hence we have decided tonot stake claim to form government. We have informed ourdecision to governor Bhagat Singh Koshyari,' Patil toldreporters outside Raj Bhavan.

'If the Sena wants to form the government with thehelp of the Congress and the NCP, we wish them good luck,' hesaid after the BJP held meetings of its core committee.

Earlier in the day, Raut appeared sending feelers tothe Congress and the NCP.

When a reporter pointed out that the Sena was notcriticising the opposition NCP in the wake of a possiblealliance between the two parties, Raut said, 'We have notcriticised the BJP either. The election campaign is over andthings said during the campaign are irrelevant.' On if the Congress will support the Shiv Sena to formgovernment, Raut said the Sonia Gandhi-led party is 'not enemyof Maharashtra'.

'If Congress leaders have taken any decision to ensurea stable government in Maharashtra, we welcome it,' he said.

Every political party has differences with the otherparty. Like, the Sena and BJP differ on the issue of borderdispute between Maharashtra and Karnataka over Belagavi(Belgaum) district, Raut said.

After the BJP's announcement, he said, 'Maharashtrawill have Sena's chief minister at any cost. Uddhav Thackerayon Sunday informed the party MLAs that Sena will have itschief minister.' 'How will BJP have its chief minister when they arenot staking a claim to form government,' Raut added.

As the focus shifting to the Sena camp, seniorCongress leader Ashok Chavan said the party didn't wantPresident's rule in Maharashtra.

Newly-elected MLAs of Congress are currently stayingin Jaipur.

'We are in Jaipur. We will discuss the issue here andwill seek advice of the party high-command on the futurepolitical stand. The party doesn't want president's rule inthe state,' Chavan told reporters.

Chavan said he was in favour of forming a stablegovernment in Maharashtra.

Another Congress leader Milind Deora said the governorshould invite NCP-Congress alliance to form government, aproposal opposed by another leader Sanjay Nirupam.

NCP chief spokesperson Nawab Malik told reporters onSunday that the Sena needs to first exit from the NDA as ithas one cabinet post (in the Narendra Modi government).

'Unless it leaves the NDA, we will wait and watch thedevelopments,' he said.

South Mumbai Sena Lok Sabha MP Arvind Sawant is aUnion minister.

Speaking on the government formation impasse, Mailksaid, 'We do not have enough numbers but we also do not wantPresident's rule in Maharashtra.' He added his party had not received any proposal fromthe Sena.

'If the Sena comes with a proposal, there will be someconditions from our side on which Sena will have to agree on.

Sena leader Sanjay Raut has been stressing on the party havingthe CM's post. If they need support of Congress and NCP, theywill have to make their stand clear on sharing power (withBJP) in Delhi,' Malik said.

Newly-elected NCP MLAs will meet on November 12 afterwhich a final decision on the party's role in the currentscenario will be taken, he added. PTI ND MR GK BNM NSKNSK NSK