POLITICS
11/11/2019 7:56 PM IST | Updated 11/11/2019 8:25 PM IST

Maharashtra: Shiv Sena Claims It Has Numbers But Congress Has Upper Hand

The Congress said it was still in talks with NCP and has not issued a letter in support of the right-wing party, even as the state governor refused Sena's request for an extension on its deadline.

Shiv Sena leaders meet Maharashtra Governor.

NAGPUR, Maharashtra: The political stalemate in Maharashtra had shown some signs of ending on Monday evening, after Shiv Sena leaders claimed that it had received support from both Congress and NCP to form the state government. 

But after the Congress said it had not yet finalised whether it would support the right-wing party, with which it has long had hostile relations, and governor Bhagat Singh Koshyari refused to accept the Sena’s request for an extension of its deadline, the uncertainty continues over who will form the next government in India’s richest state. 

Multiple media outlets including HuffPost India had published reports on the Sena forming the next government, before the Congress statement provided one more twist to the political saga.

Newly elected MLA Aaditya Thackeray, son of Shiv Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray, said after meeting the governor at his residence on Monday evening that the governor had not rejected their claim to form the government, though the party’s request for a 48-hour extension was turned down.

“A delegation of leaders of Shiv Sena met the governor and expressed their willingness to form the government. However, they could not submit the requisite letter of support. Further, they submitted a letter requesting for three days of extension of the deadline for submitting the letters of support. The governor expressed his inability to give any further extension,” Maharashtra governor said a press release on Monday evening.

Shiv Sena had been given time till 7.30 pm on Monday by Maharashtra governor Bhagat Singh Koshiyari to show its willingness to form the government. On Sunday, the BJP, which had emerged as the single largest party after the assembly election last month, had expressed its inability to form the government.

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On Sunday, NCP spokesperson Nawab Malik had asked Shiv Sena to quit NDA if it wanted NCP’s support. Shiv Sena’s sole minister in Narendra Modi cabinet, Arvind Sawant, resigned on Monday and the party ended its decades-old alliance with the BJP.

But the Congress now holds the upper hand in the negotiations, as the Shiv Sena has, at least temporarily, burned its bridges with the BJP.

Monday witnessed hectic political activities in New Delhi and in Maharashtra as Uddhav called on NCP chief Sharad Pawar and reportedly asked for his support for government formation.

Thackeray also deputed his personal assistant Milind Narvekar and MP Anil Desai to New Delhi, where they met senior Congress leader Ahmed Patel and also spoke with Congress president Sonia Gandhi on the phone.

Gandhi on Monday spoke to all senior Congress leaders and newly elected Congress MLAs, who have been shifted to Congress-ruled Rajasthan to avoid poaching by the BJP.

Shiv Sena, which managed to win 56 seats in the assembly election, struck a hard bargain with its pre-poll alliance partner BJP and remained adamant on sharing the chief minister’s post, a demand declined by the BJP. Finally, the BJP preferred to stay in opposition.

The Congress is divided along the lines of seniority over supporting Shiv Sena, said sources. Senior leaders such as Sushil Kumar Shinde and Sanjay Nirupam have advised the grand old party against any such misadventures whereas Milind Deora, Prithviraj Chavan and some others were in favour of keeping the BJP out of power.

Pawar and state Congress chief Balasaheb Thorat had been reiterating since the day of election results that the mandate for Congress and NCP was to sit in the opposition.

If it gets backing from Congress and NCP, Shiv Sena will form the government with the support of 154 MLAs in the 288-member house. The BJP had won 105 seats, Shiv Sena 56 seats, whereas NCP and Congress had won 54 and 44 seats respectively in the assembly election held last month.

According to some NCP sources, Pawar had no problem in backing Shiv Sena but he could not have been seen backing a radical Hindutva outfit like Shiv Sena alone, which is why he has been waiting for the Congress to make the first move.

Even if the three parties decide to join hands, it is certain that the alliance will be an uncomfortable one. The Congress’s secular claims will not sit well with the Shiv Sena, which has a radical Hindutva image and the background of being involved in Babri Masjid demolition and 1993 communal riots in Mumbai.

Uddhav and his father Bal Thackeray had gone to the extent of calling Congress prime minister Manmohan Singh as “politically impotent” in the past.