Mumbai, Nov 10 (PTI) Hours after the BJP declined to form government in Maharashtra on Sunday, Governor Bhagat Singh Koshyari on Sunday night asked the Shiv Sena to 'indicate the willingness and ability' of the party to stake claim, mounting suspense over formation of government in the state.
The Sena, the second-largest party in the 288-member House with 56 MLAs after the BJP (105), has time till 7:30pm on November 11, to stake the claim.
While the Sena has been making efforts to reach out to the NCP and the Congress, the Sharad Pawar-led party said the Sena will have to walk out of the NDA first.
Congress sources said the party legislators from Maharashtra were meeting in Jaipur with senior leaders to discuss the possibility of supporting a Sena-led government.
A close aide of a senior Congress leader here said the MLAs will return to Mumbai from Jaipur Monday afternoon after which the party may announce its stand on the political impasse.
Meanwhile, the Maharashtra BJP core committee headed by caretaker Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis will also meet in Mumbai on Monday.
Governor Koshyari has asked Sena legislative party leader Eknath Shinde to 'indicate willingness and ability' of the party to form government, a Raj Bhavan statement said.
After the governor's communication, Sena MLAs, staying at a suburban hotel in Mumbai, went into a huddle. They later moved to Matoshree, the Bandra residence of the party chief Uddhav Thackeray, for another meeting.
The fast-paced developments seem to have increased the bargaining 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 its willingness and ability to form government, Fadnavis informed him about the party's inability to do so due to lack of enough numbers.
The role of the Congress (44 MLAS) and the NCP (54 MLAs) is crucial now.
If the Sena decides to form a government with the support of Opposition parties, the collective strength of all the three parties will go up to 154 in the House, just above the halfway mark.
While the Congress refused to open its cards, the NCP made it clear that the Sena would have to break away from the NDA before the Sharad Pawar-led party can think of lending support to the Uddhav Thackeray's party.
However, Sena leader Sanjay Raut appeared unfazed and said his party would install its chief minister at any cost.
Sharing of power, especially the post of the CM on a rotational basis, was the bone of contention between the Sena and the BJP for the last 16 days, which resulted into a deadlock.
Fadnavis had rejected Thackeray's claims that BJP chief Amit Shah was agreed to his demand for a rotational chief ministership ahead of Lok Sabha polls.
Announcing the party's decision to not form government on Sunday evening, state BJP chief Chandrakant Patil accused the Thackeray-led party of 'disrespecting' the popular mandate secured by the NDA in recent assembly polls.
The governor had on Saturday invited the BJP to form government by virtue of it being the single largest party.
In fact, Patil wished 'good luck' to the Sena to go ahead and form a government with the support of the Congress and the NCP.
'We contested together but the Sena does not want to come with us to form government. The mandate of the people of Maharashtra was for the BJP-Shiv Sena alliance. Sena has, however, disrespected the mandate, hence we have decided to not stake claim to form government. We have informed our decision to governor Bhagat Singh Koshyari,' Patil told reporters outside Raj Bhavan.
'If the Sena wants to form the government with the help of the Congress and the NCP, we wish them good luck,' he said after the BJP held meetings of its core committee.
Earlier in the day, Raut appeared sending feelers to the Congress and the NCP.
When a reporter pointed out that the Sena was not criticising the opposition NCP in the wake of a possible alliance between the two parties, Raut said, 'We have not criticised the BJP either. The election campaign is over and things said during the campaign are irrelevant.' Asked if the Congress will support the Shiv Sena to form government, Raut said the Sonia Gandhi-led party is 'not enemy of Maharashtra'.
'If Congress leaders have taken any decision to ensure a stable government in Maharashtra, we welcome it,' he said.
Every political party has differences with the other party. Like, the Sena and BJP differ on the issue of border dispute between Maharashtra and Karnataka over Belagavi (Belgaum) district, Raut said.
After the BJP's announcement, he said, 'Maharashtra will have Senas chief minister at any cost. Uddhav Thackeray on Sunday informed the party MLAs that Sena will have its chief minister.' 'How will BJP have its chief minister when they are not staking a claim to form government,' Raut added.
As the focus shifting to the Sena camp, senior Congress leader Ashok Chavan said the party didnt want President's rule in Maharashtra and that the MLAs, in Jaipur, will discuss the issue.
'We will discuss the issue here and will seek advice of the party high-command on the future political stand. The party doesnt want presidents rule in the state,' Chavan told reporters.
He said he was in favour of forming a stable government in Maharashtra.
Another Congress leader Milind Deora said the governor should invite NCP-Congress alliance to form government, a proposal opposed by another leader Sanjay Nirupam.
NCP chief spokesperson Nawab Malik told reporters on Sunday that the Sena needs to first exit from the NDA as it has one cabinet post (in the Narendra Modi government).
'Unless it leaves the NDA, we will wait and watch the developments,' he said.
South Mumbai Sena Lok Sabha MP Arvind Sawant is a Union minister.
Mailk said, 'We do not have enough numbers but we also do not want Presidents rule in Maharashtra.' He added his party had not received any proposal from the Sena.
'If the Sena comes with a proposal, there will be some conditions from our side on which Sena will have to agree on. Sena leader Sanjay Raut has been stressing on the party having the CMs post. If they need support of Congress and NCP, they will have to make their stand clear on sharing power (with BJP) in Delhi,' Malik said.
NCP MLAs will meet on November 12 after which a final decision will be taken, he added. PTI ND MR GK BNM NSK CK RHL ABH RTRT