Shiv Sena, BJP ready Plan B; Pawar curtails programmes, calls party leaders’ meet

The Maratha leader was scheduled to be in Delhi on November 4 for talks with Congress president Sonia Gandhi to explore the possibility of supporting a Shiv Sena-led government. But, an NCP leader said that he may now go to Delhi on Sunday.

Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) chief Sharad Pawar cut short his visit of Maharashtra’s rain-hit areas and returned to Mumbai on Saturday and is believed to have advanced his trip to Delhi by a day even as allies BJP and Shiv Sena continued to wrangle over the modalities of forming government in the state.

The Maratha leader has also called a meeting of party’s senior leaders on Saturday evening in Mumbai ahead of his meeting with Congress president Sonia Gandhi in Delhi. He was scheduled to be in Delhi on November 4 to explore the possibility of supporting a Shiv Sena-led government. But, an NCP leader said that he may now go to Delhi on Sunday.

According to people aware of the developments, the NCP is exploring the possibility of forming a government with the Shiv Sena and indirect support of the Congress. The arrangement, being dubbed as Sena’s Plan B, involves taking along small parties and independents. The Congress will not be a part of the government directly as its leaders are wary of the reaction of certain sections that support the party and are opposed to the Sena. The plan was discussed in a core committee meeting called by NCP chief Sharad Pawar at his residence on Thursday evening. The meeting was called after senior Shiv Sena leader Sanjay Raut met the NCP chief at his residence in South Mumbai.

Sena and BJP, who have been allies for the past 30 years, have been sparring since assembly election results were announced on October 24. While the BJP and Sena fought the elections together and secured 105 seats and 56 seats respectively, they have been having trouble in coming to an agreement about portfolios and about sharing the Chief Minister post by rotation. The NCP bagged 54 seats and the Congress 44. The halfway mark in the Legislative Assembly is 145.

The BJP hopes that Shiv Sena will return to the talks table soon. “Since we have very few days left, we are expecting some dialogue with our ally — Sena — over formation of the government,” said a senior BJP leader wishing not to be named. State BJP President Chandrakant Patil on Saturday said that they are sure the issue between the BJP and Shiv Sena will be resolved soon.

The BJP is also ready with its Plan B to stake claim to form the government on its own, in case Sena continue to flex its muscles. “As a single largest party we will get our ministers sworn in and then face a floor test in the Assembly. We also have support of 15 independent MLAs,” said a BJP functionary requesting anonymity.

Meanwhile, allies of the BJP comprising Republican Party of India (A), Rashtriya Samaj Paksha, Rayat Kranti Sangathana etc. met the governor and requested him to allow BJP to form the government. In its memorandum, the leaders from the parties said that BJP is the single largest party in the state with 105 seats and it also has support of 15 independent MLAs, said a Raj Bhavan official.

In another development, Congress Rajya Sabha Member of Parliament Hussain Dalwai has written to Congress president Sonia Gandhi requesting her to allow the party to support Shiv Sena to form a non-BJP government in Maharashtra. “There is a big difference between BJP and Shiv Sena. It is the same party that has supported Congress candidates Pratibha Patil and Pranab Mukherjee for presidential elections. The Congress should support Sena if the party seeks our support to form the government, the letter states.

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