Shiv Sena blinks, softens stand on rotational CM post, 50:50 formula

Maharashtra CM Devendra Fadnavis (third from right) along with Maharashtra BJP in charge Saroj Pandey (second from left), Union Minister Narendra Singh Tomar (second from right), Maharashtra BJP president Chandrakant Patil (third from left) and BJP
The Shiv Sena on Wednesday softened its stand on its demand for rotational chief ministers and “50:50 power sharing” in its negotiations with ally Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) over government formation in Maharashtra.

Shiv Sena leader Sanjay Raut said it was necessary for the party to stay in the BJP-led alliance in the larger interest of Maharashtra, but without compromising on “respect”.

To a question on whether the Shiv Sena was adamant on implementing the equal power sharing formula, Raut blamed the media for raking it up. “You (the media) are saying this. We only want things to be done according to what has been decided earlier.”

Asked about reports that the BJP has offered deputy chief minister's post and 13 portfolios to the Sena, Raut evaded a direct reply and said “We are not sitting with account books.” On Tuesday, Raut had spoken of his party looking at “alternatives” if its key demands were not accepted by the BJP.

However, on Wednesday he said, “Individuals are not important but state's interest is important. Decisions need to be taken in a calm manner and keeping in mind the state's interest.” Raut’s statement is a climb down from his statements of the past couple of days when he insisted that BJP chief Amit Shah and Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray had discussed the 2.5-years rotational chief ministerial tenure during their alliance talks in the run up to the Lok Sabha polls.

The day saw BJP legislators elect Devendra Fadnavis their leader. The Sena will elect its legislative party leader on Thursday. Senior leader and minister Eknath Shinde is the incumbent legislative party leader of the Sena in the outgoing Assembly. However, Aaditya Thackeray, the first from his family to do so, is now an MLA and could be elected the party leader.

The Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) elected Ajit Pawar as its legislative party leader. He will also be the leader of the opposition in the Maharashtra Assembly. The NCP and Congress also said they will sit in the opposition. The NCP has won 54-seats in the Assembly polls. Its ally Congress has won 44-seats.

The Sena received indirect support from another of the BJP’s allies, the Janata Dal (United). The JD (U) reminded the BJP on Wednesday that the 2015 Bihar Assembly polls verdict was against that party, but Nitish Kumar was large hearted to give BJP the post of deputy chief minister and more than adequate ministerial berths when the JD (U) formed the government with the BJP in Patna in 2017.

Signaling that the verdict from Haryana and Maharashtra Assembly polls have strengthened the voice of BJP’s allies, JD (U) general secretary K C Tyagi demanded “proportionate representation” for the party in the union cabinet. After sweeping Bihar's 40-seats in the Lok Sabha polls, the JD (U) had refused to join the Narendra Modi council of ministers as it felt it was not offered its fair share of portfolios.

It has now chosen to speak about the issue after the recent Assembly poll verdict, and with the Bihar Assembly polls less than 12-months away.

The BJP has had to rely on allying with the Jannayak Janata Party in Haryana to form the government there, and is hoping to form the government in Maharashtra with the Sena's help. The BJP currently runs a government in alliance with the All Jharkhand Students' Union, or AJSU, in Jharkhand which is due for Assembly polls by January.

Meanwhile, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) has upped the ante on the issue of Ram temple. It has asked all to “accept” the verdict of the Supreme Court and ensure harmony in its aftermath. The RSS cancelled the weeklong meeting of its pracharaks in Haridwar from October 30 to November 5, but said its top leadership was instead meeting in Delhi for two-days. The apex court verdict is expected on November 17.

In Maharashtra, two Independent MLAs, Manjula Gavit from Sakri seat and Chandrakant Nimba Patil from Muktainagar on Wednesday pledged their support to the Sena after meeting party chief Uddhav Thackeray in Mumbai here, sources said. Patil had defeated BJP veteran Eknath Khadse's daughter Rohini Khadse in the recent elections. The Sena, which won 56 seats in the elections, has so far enlisted support of six MLAs including Gavit and Patil, taking its strength to 62 in the 288-member House.

Other MLAs who have extended their support to the Sena since the results were declared are Bachu Kadu and Rajkumar Patel of the Prahar Janshakti Party, Ashish Jaiswal (Independent) and Shankarrao Gadakh of the Krantikari Shetkari Party. 

The BJP, which won 105-seats, has received support of six MLAs, most of them party rebels who had contested as Independents.
The JD (U) at its national council meeting re-elected Nitish Kumar as the party chief. Party leader Tyagi said, “If NDA leaders Modi and (Amit) Shah take an initiative for the JD(U)'s proportionate representation in the government, we will welcome it.” 

Adequate representation of JD(U) will make Bihar more representative in the union government, he said. The JD (U) leader said its alliance with the BJP will remain intact for the Assembly polls in Bihar.

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