Uddhav Thackeray holds talks with Shiv Sena leaders, unlikely to be in govt for now
A day after Devendra Fadnavis was annointed Chief Minister-designate of Maharashtra, Shiv Sena Chief Uddhav Thackeray today went into a huddle with top party leaders to discuss the future course of action but there were no signs of the party being in the BJP-led government for now.
A top BJP leader said no talks were underway with Sena and would resume only after the new government was sworn in on Friday.
Both sides had yesterday struck a conciliatory note after Fadnavis was elected BJP Legislature Party leader.
"Discussions are on within the party. Uddhavji will take a final call (on whether to join the BJP-led ministry)," Neelam Gorhe, Sena spokesperson, told reporters outside Uddhav's residence 'Matoshree' where he was closeted with senior party leaders Subhash Desai, Anil Desai and Vinayak Raut.
The first two were involved in back channel talks with BJP leaders in Delhi.
A top central BJP leader, when asked if there was any breakthrough in discussions with Sena on the latter's joining the government, said talks would resume only after the oath-taking ceremony on October 31.
"No talks (with Shiv Sena) are currently underway. Our whole focus is on making October 31 a grand success. We will resume talks only post that," he told PTI, speaking on the condition of anonymity.
Both parties had yesterday shown signs of a rapprochement with Shiv Sena MP and spokesman Sanjay Raut saying, "The blood group of BJP and Shiv Sena is the same."
He had rubbished media reports that Sena was demanding deputy chief minister's post and some key portfolios as pre-condition for a reunion between the former saffron allies.
BJP leadership has been insisting that Sena join the government but without any pre-conditions.
Newly-appointed BJP General Secretary in-charge of the state J P Nadda too indicated that the former allies could reunite when he said, "We want that Sena come with us. It is our desire. A positive result will emerge soon."
Meanwhile, BJP sources said they have sent out an invitation to Uddhav Thackeray for the oath-taking ceremony.
"We have sent an invite to Uddhav Thackeray for the grand ceremony to be held on October 31. It is upto him now whether he attends the event or not," a senior BJP leader said.
Besides Thackeray, NCP Chief Sharad Pawar, whose party has offered outside support to BJP, his nephew and former Deputy Chief Minister Ajit Pawar, and MNS leader Raj Thackeray have also been invited.
Uddhav had on Saturday skipped the inauguration of a renovated private hospital by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in the city.
Though Sena's Rajya Sabha MP Anil Desai had claimed Uddhav did not attend the function on account of 'Bhai Dooj' festival, media reports said he gave the event a miss to avoid meeting Modi.
All eyes will now be on the inauguration of Devendra Fadnavis government on Friday where a meeting between Modi and Uddhav could set the stage for the return of a BJP-Sena coalition dispensation in Maharashtra after 15 years.
Meanwhile, BJP sources said a "slim and trim" ministry will be sworn in on Friday.
"Ours will be a slim and trim ministry, unlike the 40- plus jumbo ministry in the previous Congress-NCP regime," a senior BJP leader said.
It is expected that around a dozen ministers will take oath, including state BJP Core Committee members Eknath Khadse, Vinod Tawde, Pankaja Munde and Sudhir Mungantiwar.
Meanwhile, party sources said BJP president Amit Shah and Union Minister from Maharashtra Nitin Gadkari are expected to arrive here tomorrow, a day ahead of the oath ceremony, and may discuss the probable candidates for the new ministry.
BJP general secretary O P Mathur, when asked about a meeting convened by Shiv Sena this evening to decide the party's stand on joining the new government, said," Every party has the right to hold meetings. We are also holding our party meeting."
Former state BJP chief Sudhir Mungantiwar described as "baseless" media reports that the party had sought an apology from Sena for the tirade against its top leaders during the Assembly poll campaign.
"BJP does not have such a narrow-minded outlook," he said. Many in the BJP were reportedly peeved over personal attacks on Prime Minister Modi and party president Shah by Sena leaders, including their chief Uddhav Thackeray during the election campaign.