Maharashtra govt formation: Prez rule imposed, but Cong-NCP-Sena talks on

Nationalist Congress Party chief Sharad Pawar and Congress leader Ahmed Patel during a joint press conference in Mumbai on Tuesday Photo: PTI
Maharashtra, which witnessed constantly changing political equations amid hectic parleys by key parties in the past few days, was put under President's Rule on Tuesday evening, and its Assembly in suspended animation, after Governor Bhagat Singh Koshyari in a report to the Centre said the formation of a stable government was impossible in the current situation.

The Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) and the Congress, however, said they were open to an alliance with the Shiv Sena, but needed “clarity” on issues and would like to come up with a common minimum programme. The two allies also said Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray had contacted them for the first time on Sunday.

Thackeray later in the evening addressed a press conference and reiterated how parties of different ideological persuasions needed more time to discuss issues. He said it was the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), the single-largest party in the state with 105 seats, that had not lived up to its promise, forcing the Sena to contact the Congress and the NCP. He said now that the state was under central rule, the three parties had six months to give shape to the next government. 

According to sources, Thackeray told his party legislators in a closed-door meeting that the BJP was still trying to reach out and a possible BJP-Sena government was a possibility. When asked about this, Thackeray evaded a direct reply. On ideological differences with the Congress-NCP, he said he was collecting information on how the BJP had alliances with the Peoples Democratic Party in Jammu and Kashmir, with the Janata Dal (United) and Ram Vilas Paswan’s Lok Janshakti Party in Bihar, and with the N Chandrababu Naidu-led Telugu Desam Party in Andhra Pradesh, none of whom espoused the Hindutva ideology.

The evening press conferences in Mumbai, first the joint press conference of the Congress-NCP addressed by Sharad Pawar and Ahmed Patel, and later of Thackeray’s, came after the governor refused to grant the NCP more time it had sought to form the government.

The Opposition accused the Narendra Modi government of moving in haste in imposing central rule. It said the governor had violated the Constitutional scheme, and said this was done to pave the way for the BJP to “manufacture a majority” for itself in the state.

The Shiv Sena moved the Supreme Court against the governor’s decision for not heeding to its Monday evening request for more time. The Congress rejected speculation that it deliberately delayed issuing support. Congress leader Prithviraj Chavan said the party would not have undertaken prolonged discussions if that was the case.

Congress leaders met the NCP chief in the evening in Mumbai and expressed hope that the three parties could still form the government. Congress general secretaries Mallikarjun Kharge and K C Venugopal, and Sonia Gandhi’s political advisor Ahmed Patel met Pawar. Earlier in the day, Gandhi spoke to Pawar and authorised the three senior party leaders to hold further talks with him, Venugopal had tweeted.

In the morning, a communiqué from Rashtrapati Bhavan said the President had accepted the resignation of Shiv Sena’s Arvind Sawant from the Union council of ministers. Sawant, the minister of heavy industries and public enterprises, was the lone Sena minister in the Modi-led Council of Ministers, but resigned on Monday. Prakash Javadekar will look after the portfolio, in addition to his existing portfolios of environment, forest and climate change and information and broadcasting.

After the BJP had expressed its inability to form the government, the governor had invited the second largest party, the Shiv Sena, on Sunday evening. Sena leaders met Koshyari before the 7.30 pm deadline on Monday. The governor refused to grant Sena three days it had sought to form the government, and invited the third-largest party, the NCP. He had given the NCP time until 8.30 pm on Tuesday to express its “willingness and ability” to form the government.

Business Standard is now on Telegram.
For insightful reports and views on business, markets, politics and other issues, subscribe to our official Telegram channel