BJP-Sena tussle in Maharashtra puts government’s winter session plan on hold

A senior BJP leader pointed out that senior party leaders who play a key role in setting the government’s agenda during a Parliament session, including home minister Amit Shah, were preoccupied with the Maharashtra negotiations.

Mumbai, November 6:

The political stalemate between allies Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and Shiv Sena is not just affecting the formation of government in Maharashtra but also delaying the Centre’s plans for the upcoming winter session of Parliament because top party leaders are busy with deadlocked negotiations, two BJP leaders said on condition of anonymity.

A senior BJP leader pointed out that senior party leaders who play a key role in setting the government’s agenda during a Parliament session, including home minister Amit Shah, were preoccupied with the Maharashtra negotiations.

“But we have enough time. The session will start from November 18, so I think we will start our discussions the week before,” the leader added.

Two of the parties that support the BJP-led grouping in Parliament said they had not been contacted so far by the National Democratic Alliance’s floor leaders to seek support for key bills that may be brought during the winter session. The last Parliament session of this calendar year will be held from November 18 to December 13.

Naveen Patnaik’s Biju Janata Dal, a key outside supporter of the BJP, contacted the party’s leaders to know about the possible agenda. “But we were told nothing has been finalised now. It will take some time,” said a senior BJD leader who asked not to be named. An All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) leader, who spoke on condition of anonymity, confirmed that no signal had come from government managers about support for bills that are likely to be on the agenda.

Normally, the government’s managers work out their plans well ahead of the session, soon after announcing the dates for the session. This time, the Cabinet committee on parliamentary affairs met on October 16 but no major strategy sessions or communication with allies and supporters have taken place so far.

The impasse began soon after assembly election results on October 24 threw up a hung House, with the BJP at 105 seats followed by the Shiv Sena at 56, the NCP 54 and the Congress 44. Since then, the BJP and Sena have squabbled over a demand of rotating the chief minister’s position and 50:50 allocation of portfolios. The Sena has also sent feelers to the Congress and its ally, the Nationalist Congress Party, but the opposition parties have not officially responded.

On Tuesday, the BJP urged the Sena to renew power-sharing discussions but made it clear that the CM’s position would not be offered to the regional party. Late in the day, chief minister Devendra Fadnavis visited the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) headquarters in Nagpur and held a meeting for around 45 minutes.

“We held a meeting of the BJP state core committee led by chief minister Devendra Fadnavis today…we believe this mandate was for the saffron alliance and, respecting the people’s wishes, we will form the government together. We have so far not got any proposal from the Shiv Sena and our doors are open 24x 7 to consider their proposal and hold discussions with them,” said Chandrakant Patil, revenue minister and BJP state chief.

A senior party leader said the BJP was willing to equally divide all ministerial berths, barring the CM’s post. Keeping aside four positions kept for smaller parties, this could give the Sena 19 ministerial berths, six more than what they have in the outgoing cabinet. The BJP also willing to concede important portfolios, except home, such as public works department, agriculture, revenue or finance to its ally, said the leader.

“There are no buts and ifs. Our saffron alliance government is coming to power. You will hear of good news any time now,’’ said finance minister Sudhir Mungantiwar.

But the Sena said it would not budge from its previous demand that the chief minister’s position be rotated between the allies.

“How can they say that there was no proposal from Sena? Whatever was decided before the Lok Sabha elections is the proposal. We are firm on our stance that [they should] do as per what was decided,” said senior leader Sanjay Raut. He also demanded that the BJP leadership assure them in writing that the CM’s position be shared. The NCP and the Congress are yet to take a formal call on backing the Sena but a senior Congress leader said the party was leaning against supporting the regional outfit known for its hardline Hindutva views.

Political circles are abuzz with the possibility of the BJP bringing the controversial Citizenship (Amendment) Bill in the winter session of Parliament. This comes after the National Register of Citizens exercise in Assam, which was meant to identify illegal immigrants and excluded 1.9 million people in its final list published on August 31.

Though disaggregated data has not been published, analysts and political leaders have said that large sections of Hindu communities have been excluded from the final list. BJP leaders like Himanta Biswa Sarma have already claimed that the Bill, which seeks to grant Indian citizenship to minorities from Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan, will come up in the winter session.

Courtesy: Hindustan Times

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