BJP-JJP govt to take oath in Haryana; Sena's hard bargain in Maharashtra

BJP’s Manohar Lal Khattar (centre) and JJP chief Dushyant Chautala (right) meet Governor Satyadeo Narain Arya to stake claim for forming the new government in the state, at Raj Bhawan in Chandigarh | PTI
The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has ironed out creases in Haryana by offering the deputy chief minister’s post to Jannayak Janata Party (JJP) chief Dushyant Chautala on Friday and electing Manohar Lal Khattar its legislative party chief on Saturday. But in Maharashtra, its problems were just about beginning with ally Shiv Sena.

Khattar and Chautala will take oath of office on Sunday afternoon. Along with seven Independents, BJP’s 40 and JJP’s 10, the coalition will have the support of 57 legislators in the 90-member Haryana Assembly. Chautla’s father Ajay Chautala, currently serving a jail term in Delhi’s Tihar jail after conviction in a corruption case, was granted a two-week leave.

In Maharashtra, however, things were not going smooth. Since Thursday evening, when the final election results were announced, the Sena has indicated it intended to drive a hard bargain with its senior partner. On Saturday, Shiv Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray demanded a written assurance from the BJP for implementing “equal formula for sharing of power”.

The Sena wants this written agreement to be in place and become the basis for any subsequent negotiation on the shape of the BJP-Sena coalition government, particularly between the Sena chief and BJP president Amit Shah.

Newly-elected MLAs of the Sena, who met Uddhav Thackeray at his residence in Mumbai, demanded that his son Aaditya Thackeray be made the chief minister in the next government. Aaditya, 29, is now a legislator from Worli, the first Thackeray to do so.

While the Sena wants a system of rotational chief minister shared between the two parties, sources said it could be amenable to have Aaditya, given his administrative inexperience, serve as the chief minister in the latter half of the five-year tenure of the government.

In Chandigarh, newly elected BJP legislators unanimously elected Khattar as their leader. There have been murmurs against Khattar’s leadership, but he is the pick of the BJP’s central leadership. Delhi elections are round the corner, and the national capital has a sizeable number of Punjabi voters who comprise the traditional support base of the BJP.

Khattar’s name was proposed by MLAs Anil Vij and Kanwar Pal and seconded by other party legislators. Khattar and Chautala later met the Haryana Governor Satyadeo Narain Arya to stake claim to form the government.

BJP later Ravi Shankar Prasad, who was also in Chandigarh to oversee Khattar re-elected as legislative party leader, said the BJP would not take the support of Sirsa MLA Gopal Kanda, a controversial politician who faces two abetment-to-suicide cases, to form the government. He said the BJP-JJP government will have only one deputy CM.

The BJP won 40 seats, falling five short of the majority mark in the 90-member Haryana assembly. While it secured support of several of the Independents, the party thought it fit to align with the JJP to not only placate the Jat community, both in Haryana as well as Delhi, but also provide more stability to the government.

BJP chief Amit Shah had sealed the alliance with Dushyant Chautala on Friday night. Earlier in the day, Dushyant Chautala had gone to Tihar jail to meet his father.

In Mumbai, Uddhav Thackeray said that he had “other options open, which he is not interested in exploring since the BJP and the Sena are bound by the Hindutva ideology”.

The Sena won 56 seats, while the BJP won 150 in the 288-member Maharashtra Assembly. The BJP is 39 seats short of the halfway mark. The MLAs authorised the Sena chief to take all decisions regarding government formation.

“The Shiv Sena contested fewer seats in the Lok Sabha and Assembly polls. Uddhav Thackeray has said the BJP should give a written assurance about implementing the power-sharing formula arrived at in the presence of Amit Shah and Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis at my residence about equal sharing of seats and power,” Sena MLA Pratap Sarnaik quoted Uddhav Thackeray as saying after the meeting.

However, the Sena chief alluding to “other options” is more a pressure tactic since Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) chief Sharad Pawar, as also Congress state unit chief Balasaheb Thorat have ruled out negotiating to sit in the government. Both have said their parties will sit in the Opposition.

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