Shiv Sena representatives will not be inducted into Maharashtra's BJP-led government before it wins the trust vote, Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis said today, in comments that have not gone down well with Sena and highlighted continued differences between the two parties over power-sharing.
Shiv Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray and Maharashtra CM Devendra Fadnavis
"Pehle vishwas phir vistar (first the trust vote and then expansion," Fadnavis told reporters when asked if Shiv Sena ministers would be inducted before his government seeks a trust vote in the Assembly on November 12.
Fadnavis said talks about Sena's participation in the government were on at an "appropriate level" and the announcement regarding it will be made in Delhi.
Party sources said Union Ministers Arun Jaitley and Dharmendra Pradhan were holding discussions with Sena interlocutors. Fadnavis' statement has peeved Sena with a party MP saying BJP was not interested in getting it on board with respect and that Shiv Sena would sit in the opposition if no "respectable solution" to end the uncertainty over its participation in the government was found by Saturday.
"After hearing Fadnavis, the feeling amongst us has only got stronger that they (BJP) are not really interested in getting us on board with respect. He being the CM can say what he wants to. But if they do not come up with a respectable solution by Saturday, we would have to sit in the opposition," he told PTI, requesting anonymity.
He, however, said the final call will be taken by Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray. Uddhav has, meanwhile, called a meeting of newly-elected Sena legislators and other leaders on Sunday to nominate the leader of the 63-member Shiv Sena Legislature Party. The new MLAs have authorised Uddhav to nominate their leader.
"Uddhavji will chair the meeting at 4 pm on Sunday where he will nominate the new leader of the Legislature Party in the Assembly," a confidante of the Sena chief told PTI.
He added that the outcome of discussions with BJP by Saturday will decide if Sena's group leader will hold a 'key position' in Devendra Fadnavis government or be the Leader of Opposition in the state Assembly.
"Let us see if we can get to a conclusion by Saturday. That will decide what post will our group leader occupy," he said. The final decision, he said, will rest with the Sena president. With 63 MLAs, Shiv Sena is the second largest party in the 288-member Assembly after BJP's 121.
One of the major sticking points in Sena joining Fadnavis government has been its demand for the post of deputy chief minister. The party also wants some important portfolios for its ministers. Several key porfolios like Home, Finance, Revenue and Urban Development have already been allocated to the existing members of Fadnavis ministry.
Sources in BJP said the party wanted Shiv Sena to back its government unconditionally during the trust vote before discussing portfolios.
The 41-member NCP has already declared outside support to BJP government and said it will abstain during the confidence vote if Sena were to sit in opposition, paving the way for a facile victory for the new dispensation in the floor test in which independents and MLAs of smaller parties are likely to back it.
Though Uddhav's presence at the swearing-in of Fadnavis government on October 31 had revived hopes of coming together of the estranged Hindutva co-travellers, there has been hardly any forward movement toward reunion ever since.