Throwing the weight of the organisation behind Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis, the BJP made it clear today it will not play the power game on the backfoot even if that affects the plan to form a government with Shiv Sena in Maharashtra. With independent MLAs increasingly lending their support to the BJP, the larger NDA partner in the state is now pressuring the cantankerous Shiv Sena back.
While the Shiv Sena wanted to see Aaditya Thackeray, the first member of their first family who has won an election, as the next chief minister, the BJP has made it clear the post is not available for the Shiv Sena. The BJP has said that it has now got the support of 15 independent MLAs. Some more MLAs of smaller parties are in touch with the party ruling at the Centre, they said. Like 2014, it is in a strong position on the basis of numbers. Overall, the BJP is trying to give a message to the Shiv Sena that it has not been weakened in any way in this election.
Maharashtra BJP spokesperson Shweta Shalini said on Monday, “Fifteen independent MLAs are standing with the BJP. They have been leaders of the BJP who had to contest in this election as independent candidates because it was difficult to accommodate them in the seat-sharing adjustment in the alliance. As in 2014, the party still has the support of 122 MLAs.”
Geeta Jain, who won fighting, unarmed by a BJP ticket, from the Meera Bhayander seat, Rajendra Raut from the Barsi seat and Ravi Rana, who won from Badnera seat in Amravati district, have announced their support to BJP, as reported by Sirf News yesterday.
The BJP says that like these three, other unarmed MLAs have approached them, assuring the party of their support, as they are related to the BJP. On 24 October, the day of the Assembly election results, Chief Minister Fadnavis had spoken about getting in touch with 15 independents.
On the question of Shiv Sena being adamant about the Maharashtra chief minister’s post, the BJP spokesperson said, “The chief minister was from the BJP, and will continue to be so. The BJP’s stand on the chief minister’s post is clear. The Shiv Sena knows this.”
Even after the NDA got a majority, the process of government formation got delayed when Shiv Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray on 24 October (the day of the election results) raised the “50-50 formula” allegedly struck between BJP president Amit Shah and him before the Lok Sabha election. He indicated that the Shiv Sena wanted the post of chief minister for two and a half years. On the issue of the next chief minister of Maharashtra, he said at a press conference, “This is a very important question.”
Uddhav Thackeray, who appeared in the Sena mouthpiece Saamana before the election, said in his interview that he wanted to see a Shiv Sainik becoming the chief minister. Since then, the BJP-Shiv Sena alliance has been in the doldrums at least in public view.
On Monday, the leaders of both parties separately met Governor Bhagat Singh Koshyari. There is no indication so far that the talks regarding the posts of the chief minister and portfolios in the Cabinet have been resolved.
BJP state unit spokesperson Shalini said, “There can be many things in the ’50-50 formula’ during the Lok Sabha elections that Shiv Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray is talking about. It may refer to each party contesting in 50% of the seats (not necessarily, getting 50% of the posts after victory in the election). It cannot be interpreted as a two-and-a-half years tenure each for two chief ministers, one from each ally.”
Interestingly, the Thackerays are not saying that the “50-50 formula” was struck at the time of forming the alliance anew before the Assembly election.