In tumultuous times, Congress leans on Sonia, while Sena gets BJP's offer letter

Even as Congress seems inclined to get its party chief’s help in electing the leader of the legislature party, Shiv Sena received a conditional proposal from the BJP, which it may refuse

There seems to be no calm for Shiv Sena and Congress after the election storm. The parties, placed at number two and three respectively in the assembly polls results, have been left to face a turbulent phase. Yesterday proved a particularly hectic day for both.

Former CM Ashok Chavan at Vidhan Bhavan for the Congress meeting yesterday. Pic/PTI
Former CM Ashok Chavan at Vidhan Bhavan for the Congress meeting yesterday. Pic/PTI

While Congress leaders had to quell rebellious voices in its legislators’ meeting to elect the leader of the legislature party, Shiv Sena began an exercise to take its cadres into confidence over the issue of backing the BJP government.

Before the meet, the Grand Old Party was split in two groups on the issue of electing the new leader. The faction owing allegiance to ex-chief minister Ashok Chavan was against his successor, Prithviraj Chavan, while the other, smaller group favoured him.

Abdul Sattar and Vijay Vadettiwar, supporters of Ashok Chavan, opposed Prithviraj Chavan openly. Sensing trouble, the latter withdrew from the race, saying he has held several positions in the last 15 years. “Now I want to concentrate on my constituency, Karad,” he said at Vidhan Bhavan, where the meeting was held.

Mallikarjun Kharge, party’s group leader in Lok Sabha, functioned as an observer for the meet. As soon as it began, MLA Gopaldas Agarwal from Gondia demanded that members should be allowed to speak.

Then, borrowing from his speech from one of the meetings of the Congress legislature party, Agarwal said, “Today our strength has been reduced to 42 from 82.

I had demanded change in the system of running the government. Unless it is done, any meeting after the state assembly elections would be a condolence meeting for the party, just as I had said.” Soon after, MLA Sunil Kedar wanted to share some thoughts, and a few more hands were raised to seek permission to speak.

But senior leaders stopped them. “Instead of making speeches we should go for a resolution authorising party president Sonia Gandhi to nominate the leader for the legislature party.

I will listen to everybody personally,” said Kharge. Later, he invited each and every legislator to express his views on who should be the leader. The name is likely to be announced after discussions with the Congress chief.

BJP’s offer letter
Left blushing on the issue of joining the Devendra Fadnavis government in the state, Shiv Sena received a jolt on Thursday, delivered in the form of a missive from the BJP’s central leadership.

‘Instead of putting a deadline for cabinet expansion at state level, we are ready to offer you two cabinet berths one cabinet-rank minister and one minister-of-state rank at the Centre,’ the Sena was told. But the proffer, according to party sources, was conditional, since it said Sena should nominate Suresh Prabhu for former.

The message sent shockwaves through the party, and a meeting of senior leaders was called last afternoon. The proposal was discussed and it was decided to seek opinions of office-bearers, as the Sena has been getting a number of calls from them over the matter. Incidentally, MP Vinayak Raut said the party was ‘not holding a begging bowl for cabinet berths’.

Later, calls were made to check how many leaders were in favour of sitting on the opposition benches and how many preferred joining the government. Party chief Uddhav Thackeray was expected to take a final call after going through the opinions, sources said.

Sources from the BJP, on the other hand, said that Sena has been told that it should accept the offer for Union cabinet expansion and support the state government during the trust vote scheduled on November 12. “The issue of joining the state cabinet can be discussed later, the Sena has been told,” said a BJP leader.

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