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Sena, Congress on tenterhooks over electing party leaders in state

Uncertain about the role they will play in the state's altered power dynamics, neither the Shiv Sena nor the Congress have nominated their leaders in the State Assembly

More than a fortnight has passed since the results of the Assembly elections were announced, and both Shiv Sena and Congress remain on edge, uncertain what roles they will play in the government in the days to come. The outcome of the prolonged discussions between the BJP and Shiv Sena remains uncertain, giving rise to a peculiar dilemma.

While the Shiv Sena has already placed the responsibility of nominating the party’s leader on Uddhav Thackeray’s shoulders, it is rumoured that the Congress will authorise Sonia Gandhi (right) to pick their leader. File pics
While the Shiv Sena has already placed the responsibility of nominating the party’s leader on Uddhav Thackeray’s shoulders, it is rumoured that the Congress will authorise Sonia Gandhi (right) to pick their leader. File pics

Power play
As per norms, each political party nominates a leader to lead its group of newly elected legislators in the Assembly. The leader of the party with the highest numbers takes charge as Chief Minister, while the leader of the party with the second highest numbers assumes charge as the leader of the opposition.

Shiv Sena, with 63 members, is currently busy thrashing out a formula to participate in the BJP-led government. Depending on its success or failure, the party’s leader could either rise to the post of deputy CM, or be leader of the opposition. Unable to anticipate which is more likely to happen, the Sena has so far refrained from picking a leader.

The party placed the responsibility of the decision on Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray’s shoulders during a meeting of the Sena legislators. It is possible that the party is mulling over different names for the nominated leader, depending on what role he or she will have to play.

Congress's dilemma
How does this affect the Congress? The party has 42 MLAs, but hasn’t elected its leader either, as it is waiting to see how the BJP-Sena talks turn out. Sources said, “If Sena joins the BJP in the government, the Congress leader would become leader of opposition, and enjoy all the power and privileges that come along with it (office, government residence, important role in legislative business).”

If Sena opts to lead the opposition, the Congress nominee will just be the leader of the Congress faction without any special status. And, just like Shiv Sena, Congress too has two different names in mind for the leader, depending on the fallout of the talks between the saffron parties, the sources added.

Congress party’s MLAs will meet on Thursday, when, according to a few, party leaders could generate some noise about the poll debacle, with former CM Prithviraj Chavan as the target.

There is also a possibility that the party will authorise Congress chief Sonia Gandhi to nominate the party leader in Maharashtra.

Rane lashes out
Senior Congress leader and former Shiv Sainik Narayan Rane was quite vocal as he addressed media at Gandhi Bhavan on Tuesday, taking potshots at his party leadership, saying such decisions (on the leadership issue) are taken in Delhi.

Without naming ex-CM Chavan, Rane seemed to blame him for the Congress whitewash in the elections. “We had accepted defeat much before the polls,” he said. Admitting that adequate campaign money had not reached the candidates, he further said that it was normally the CM’s responsibility, pointing the finger at Chavan yet again.

He also took potshots at Uddhav Thackeray and Shiv Sena. He said that the now-deceased Sena supremo, Bal Thackeray, taught the party to live with self-respect, and had he been alive, he would have preferred to sit in the opposition rather than put up with the BJP’s tantrums. “Sena has become desperate for power,” added Rane.

Meanwhile, sources said that neither CM Devendra Fadnavis nor Uddhav Thackeray were directly involved in the alliance talks. After waiting for 16 days, Thackeray took his party legislators to Ekvira Devi temple, near Lonavla, yesterday, when he was reported to have said that the next time he would return with 180 MLAs.

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