Uddhav’s late night meet with Pawar; more talks today on new Maharashtra govt

After their late-night meeting at Pawar’s residence ‘Silver Oak’ in south Mumbai, the three parties—the Shiv Sena, NCP and the Congress—will hold more talks on Friday on their effort form a government in the politically-crucial western state.

Mumbai, November 22:

The Shiv Sena’s chief Uddhav Thackeray met the National Congress Party (NCP) president Sharad Pawar in Mumbai for more than an hour on Thursday, capping a day of hectic talks to firm up the contours of government formation in Maharashtra.

After their late-night meeting at Pawar’s residence ‘Silver Oak’ in south Mumbai, the three parties—the Shiv Sena, NCP and the Congress—will hold more talks on Friday on their effort form a government in the politically-crucial western state.

Uddhav Thackeray was accompanied by his son Aaditya, a first-time legislator from Worli, to the meeting with Sharad Pawar late on Thursday. The Thackerays called on Pawar, a Rajya Sabha MP, after he arrived in Mumbai from New Delhi in the evening.

The Shiv Sena’s Rajya Sabha member Sanjay Raut was also present at the meeting. However, there was no leader from the Congress party at the meeting.

“Since it was a meeting between top leaders, only they will know what transpired there. But the discussion is likely to have revolved around giving final touches to sharing of posts in the government being planned to be formed,” an unnamed NCP leader was quoted as saying by news agency PTI.

Differences sorted

The parties have overcome a key hurdle in the formation of an unlikely alliance and inching closer to staking claim to power in Maharashtra and finalised a draft common minimum programme (CMP) focusing on farmers, unemployment, education and health care.

The three-page draft CMP, which HT has accessed, is likely to act as the backbone of negotiations between the three parties at a key meeting in Mumbai on Friday, senior leaders from all three parties indicated.

The document is likely to be discussed at the meet, which is also expected to take up possible distribution of ministerial portfolios and the chief minister’s position, the leaders added.

“We have completed discussions. There is complete unanimity between the Congress and the NCP on all issues,” former Maharashtra chief minister Prithviraj Chavan told reporters in Delhi on Thursday after three round of consultations between the pre-poll partners since Wednesday.

The Sena sounded equally confident.

“We do not think there is any hurdle now [to stake claim]… the pace at which we are progressing, there is no stopping us,” said senior Sena MP Sanjay Raut.

The Congress and the NCP will also hold talks with their other pre-poll allies, the Peasants Workers Party, Samajwadi Party, Swabhimani Paksha and CPI(M) before meeting with the Sena leaders.

Similarly, Uddhav Thackeray will address party MLAs and senior leaders on Friday to keep them in the loop and discuss the next course of the plan with them, a senior party functionary said on condition of anonymity.

The party plans to fly out its lawmakers to Congress-ruled Rajasthan after their meeting.

“The location is still being finalised. The MLAs will be sent to either Jaipur or Udaipur in Rajasthan till the process here is completed,” a senior Sena leader confirmed.

Senior party MLAs including Eknath Shinde and Thackeray’s son Aaditya would stay back in Mumbai.

Forms and contours

Leaders from the NCP and the Congress indicated that the Sena would be given the chief minister’s chair but there was no clarity on whether the position would change hands after 2.5 years.

The Congress and the NCP are likely to have a deputy chief minister position each, with the former also demanding the Speaker’s chair. The NCP may be allotted the chairman’s position in the legislative council.

The three parties are also likely to agree to the formation of two coordination committees — one at the government level, and the other at the party level.

Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray and NCP’s Sharad Pawar, along with senior Congress leaders, are expected to make a joint announcement, if the “architecture” of the alliance and contours of the new government are finalised in Mumbai on Friday.

They will then approach Governor Bhagat Singh Koshyari with letters of support, likely by Saturday. The governor’s schedule for the weekend is not clear, said officials.

The state plunged into political uncertainty soon after the October 24 assembly election results threw up a hung House, with the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) at 105 seats, the Sena at 56, the NCP at 54 and the Congress at 44. Independents and smaller parties won 29 seats.

The BJP and Sena, which fought the polls together, fell out over the chief minister’s position and equal distribution of portfolios, ending a three-decade-old alliance.

The governor invited the BJP, Sena and NCP, respectively, but no party could prove a majority within the prescribed deadline.

Maharashtra was placed under President’s Rule on November 12 after the governor told the Centre that no party was in a position to form the government.

 

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