NEW DELHI: The lines in the BJP-Shiv Sena stand-off in Maharashtra have hardened with BJP prepared to consider allocation of the deputy CM post to its warring ally but also making it clear that it will have the final say in the allocation of major and sensitive portfolios.
BJP sources indicated that the view in the party is that Sena’s brinkmanship should not result in concessions which are not justified by the numbers the two parties command in the new assembly.
The prospect of Central rule would loom if no government is in place by November 7, a situation the allies should try and avert.
The tough approach of the BJP brass comes amid stepped up activity in the opposition camp after Congress leaders from Maharashtra met party president Sonia Gandhi and urged all possible steps be taken to prevent a BJP-led government assuming office in the interests of stalling “communal” forces.
The moves in the Congress and NCP camp, said opposition sources, are aimed at trying to ensure that a BJP-Sena government does not assume office and the current differences in the saffron camp continue to fester. The meetings between Sena and NCP leaders have stoked speculation of a dramatic realignment.
On Saturday, NCP chief Sharad Pawar reiterated his statement that the party has been voted to sit in the opposition. At the same time, he is now slated to meet Sonia Gandhi on Monday to discuss the political situation in the state. Some Congress leaders have held that if Sena comes up with a concrete proposal, it should be considered by the party high command.
BJP leaders, however, seem to have decided there should be no “give” in the face of Sena’s threat of seeking alternatives or demands for a 50:50 share in ministerial berths that might include portfolios like revenue, urban development, home or PWD.
There is a strong view that the terms of engagement will need to be settled without pressure tactics and in keeping with numbers in the assembly.
The implied threat of central rule, articulated by forests minister Sudhir Mungantiwar, drew an angry response from Sena but, at the same time, the ally appeared to strike a more cordial note on Saturday.
“The Sena contested the assembly elections in an alliance and we would adhere to coalition dharma till the last moment,” Sena Rajya Sabha MP Sanjay Raut said. However, the statement was also read to mean that while Sena would try and preserve the coalition, it may have no choices if shove came to push.
Senior NCP leader Ajit Pawar said that Sharad Pawar will be in Delhi on Monday. “I have information that he and Sonia Gandhi have spoken on phone recently … he will speak to her. A lot depends on what they will discuss,” he said.
The remarks have only fuelled speculation on various permutations such as a Sena-NCP government with outside support from Congress.