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A fortnight later, Maharashtra power players locked in deadlock

The two allies - the Bharatiya Janata Party and Shiv Sena -- fought the elections jointly and secured a majority

Wednesday November 6, 2019 8:01 PM, Quaid Najmi, IANS

Maharashtra Sena BJP

Mumbai: A fortnight after the assembly election results were announced, Maharashtra witnesses a curious game in which all major political parties are engaged in 'no harm no foul', though the crisis is expected to be resolved by early Thursday.

The two allies - the Bharatiya Janata Party and Shiv Sena -- fought the elections jointly and secured a majority, but they are locked in a tough fight over the post of Chief Minister, which both are not willing to give up at any cost.

Claiming the support of 170 MLAs, the Shiv Sena has openly dared the BJP, which has emerged as the single largest party with 105 MLAs plus some independents, to stake its claim to form the government.

State BJP President Chandrakant Patil, along with minister Sudhir Mungantiwar are expected to meet Governor B.S. Koshyari, though the agenda is not clear.

Patil's decision to accompany Mungantiwar -- instead of Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis -- has led to fresh speculation over his fate, especially after the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) is understood to have advised him to keep off in the government formation process.

"If the BJP stakes its claim to form the government, it must submit a list of 145 supporting MLAs (out of the total 288 legislators). We shall be very happy. Nevertheless, we are confident that the next CM will be from Shiv Sena," party MP Sanjay Raut told mediapersons on Wednesday evening.

On its part, the NCP and Congress are waiting for the right set of developments before they go in for the kill though both their leaders seem to be going out of their way to ensure a stable new regime for the state.

However, at a much-anticipated packed media briefing, NCP President Sharad Pawar smiled and poured cold water on the Sena's desperate plans to form a government, possibly in alliance with NCP with outside support of the Congress.

The NCP's change in tack was ostensibly due to the Sena's reluctance to withdraw its sole presence at the Centre, Heavy Industry Minister Arvind Sawant and dilly-dallying on the Congress' demand for the powerful post of Speaker in the next government.

"The Sena wants to continue with the NDA at the Centre and expects to rule with UPA support in the state. How can that be possible or acceptable?" Congress leader said.

It was against this backdrop that Pawar passed the ball back to the BJP-Sena and sagely advised them to form the next government without any delays besides expressing the will of the NCP-Congress to sit in the Opposition.

Late this evening, political circles were agog with talks over "an unofficial understanding" reportedly arrived in New Delhi with the NCP-Congress to keep them from supporting a Shiv Sena-led government.

The so-called "mutual understanding" could positively affect the fate and fortunes of certain prominent opposition politicians currently facing the heat in different cases.

In the midst of all the political cacophony, Raj Bhavan continued to be an oasis of tranquility with no visible movements of any sort.

Political circles indicate that after the Maharashtra imbroglio is discussed between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and BJP President and Union Home Minister Amit Shah, hectic political activities would resume later tonight.

(Quaid Najmi can be contacted at: q.najmi@ians.in)

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