BJP: Will continue to woo Shiv Sena
Sena split with its pre-poll ally BJP over the sharing of the CM's post; now the Congress and NCP are turning the same table on the Sena
Nineteen days after results were announced, Maharashtra went under President's rule on Tuesday after the governor was convinced no party can muster a simple majority of 145 in the 288-member Assembly.
The developments came with a not-so-subtle nudge from the NCP, which as early as 11:30 am told the governor it did not have the strength to form government, clearing the path for Bhagat Singh Koshyari to recommend central administration.
Shiv Sena moved the Supreme Court against the governor's denial of extension of deadline for confirming its claim to form government. But mid-day has reliably learned that that the BJP also sought for extra time but was refused, just like the Sena and NCP were.
"We met the governor and asked for extension, which was refused. No other party should cry foul. In fact, the other parties had more time available than us because we were the first to be called in. They must have started working on cobbling up numbers the minute we were invited," said a former BJP minister.
The state is expected to submit the above stand in the Supreme Court today, weakening the Sena's argument. It will also be interesting to see what the other respondents in Sena's petition, the NCP and Congress tell the court under oath when asked whether they had pledged support before or after the Sena filed the case.
Day full of drama
Tuesday witnessed a series of events behind the scenes before President's rule came into effect. It was all much to the chagrin of the Shiv Sena, which quit the NDA in a bid to install its third CM but returned red-faced on Monday evening from the Raj Bhavan.
The fiasco was blamed on the Congress and the NCP, who denied any wrongdoing, saying the Sena contacted them officially on Monday and hence they couldn't decide on support before time ran out.
As the Congress delayed its response, the NCP, which was asked to show its willingness to form government told the governor much before the 8.30pm deadline that it wouldn't be able to show the adequate strength. It also asked Koshyari for three more days to gather support letters.
The Raj Bhavan refused extension and by early afternoon had the recommendation mailed to the Union government, which convened a Cabinet meeting for drafting a proposal to be sent to President Ramnath Kovind. The President endorsed the recommendation early evening.
In public, all non-BJP parties said the imposition of President's rule had violated the Supreme Court guidelines. But the behaviour of the Congress and NCP did seem to hint that they wanted the current scenario to emerge to boost their bargaining power.
In any case, Tuesday's developments in the Congress-NCP's Democratic Front indicated they were better prepared to meet any curve balls that came their way. It also kept the Sena in the game even though the DF allies said they hadn't decided on extending support to the Sena because they were still discussing the issue between them and most importantly the Sena had asked for their support only on the day it met the governor.
Senior Congress leaders led by Ahmed Patel flew to Mumbai to confer with NCP boss Sharad Pawar.
The meeting happened despite the state level leaders of the two parties accusing each other of delaying the declaration on Monday. Patel deftly shifted the blame to the Sena, saying the alliance partners were officially asked for support only on November 11 (Monday). Pawar said the partners will discuss all alternatives and only then talk with Sena.
'Need stable govt'
Former chief minister Devendra Fadnavis told mid-day that President's rule was unfortunate for the state, which had voted for a second term to the BJP-Sena pre-poll alliance. "I expect all parties to consider the state of affairs in Maharashtra and give a stable government," he said.
Later in the evening, BJP MP and ex-CM Narayan Rane, who was earlier associated with the Sena, muddled the plot. He said he will try his best to garner support for his party in days to come. Did he mean getting the Sena's or other parties' MLAs to defect to the BJP? He refused to answer.
Sena president Uddhav Thackeray told his MLAs at a luxury hotel in Malad that he will definitely make his CM. Later he endorsed the Congress and NCP's information that they started talking only on Monday. "Thanks to the governor who gave us six months to decide on the pact of ideologically different parties," he said, apparently assuming that President's rule will be in force at least for six months.
The promulgation of the constitutional provision doesn't have any cap. Parties that gather adequate strength in the House can approach the governor any time and request him to recommend the lifting of the rule.
On the other side, the BJP's efforts to get the Sena back into the fold haven't stopped yet. The party said it will use the cooling off period to resume talks with the Sena. A top BJP leader told mid-day on a condition of anonymity that they will work on patching up with the Sena while the governor runs the state.
"We are hopeful that the Centre's rule doesn't drag for long because the MLAs are rendered redundant as they haven't been administered oath. The elected representatives will be devoid of constitutional powers and perks like salary, allowances and facilities that help in getting the welfare works done expeditiously," he said.
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