Congress refuses to back Thackeray within deadline, Sena red-faced

Updated: 12 November, 2019 08:29 IST | Dharmendra Jore | Mumbai

In a day full of twists, governor denies extra time to Shiv Sena, invites NCP to form a government. With Sena quitting Narendra Modi's NDA also, Sharad Pawar now holds most of the cards

(left to right) Sharad Pawar, Sonia Gandhi, Aaditya Thackeray and Uddhav Thackeray
(left to right) Sharad Pawar, Sonia Gandhi, Aaditya Thackeray and Uddhav Thackeray

Shiv Sena’s attempt to form the government without pre-poll ally BJP failed badly, as the Congress and NCP failed to extend support within the governor’s deadline on Monday. The saffron party, which exited the national NDA in the morning, was left embarrassed by the night.

On Monday morning, all indications were that the Sena will form government with the help of the Congress and NCP. But as the minutes ticked away on the governor’s timer, no letter of support was forthcoming from the Democratic Front allies.

The Sena desperately sought for 72 more hours from the governor. Bhagat Singh Koshyari was in no mood to listen to its pleas and swiftly issued an invitation to the third-largest party, the NCP, to try and form the government. The NCP has 24 hours to express its ability and willingness.

The developments seemed to be in accordance with constitutional provisions, but the Sena cried discrimination. While the governor gave the BJP 48 hours to prove its capability to form government, the Sena and the NCP got only 24 hours each.

Those who see the governor’s decision as right, however, point out that while the BJP was indeed given 48 hours, Devendra Fadnavis took only 24 hours to express his inability to form the government.

Congress refuses to back SenaAditya Thackeray with other Sena leaders at a media conference at Raj Bhavan after meeting with Maharashtra governor Bhagat Singh Koshyari. PICS/ASHISH RAJE 

There was a brief period on Monday evening when the Sena – which seemed poorly prepared to manage eventualities – believed its claim was still alive past the deadline. First-time MLA Aaditya Thackeray hinted as much in his media interaction after meeting the governor. But Raj Bhavan soon scotched all such hopes by inviting the NCP (54 MLAs).

State NCP president Jayant Patil said his party will discuss possibilities with the Congress and get back to the governor before 8.30 pm today.

Where will Sena go?

The only possibility open for government formation now is if the NCP and Congress convince the Sena to support them. But will the Sena then forget the dream of installing its CM and go with the DF? 

If the Sena refuses to support the two parties that embarrassed it on Monday, it will bring the state closer to the President’s rule, and then another election. BJP’s Sudhir Mungantiwar said the party was watching the developments closely.

Earlier on Monday, Sena leaders led by Aaditya reached Raj Bhavan and expressed willingness to form the government. But the party could not produce letters of support from prospective allies. Thackeray and Co asked for a three-day extension to show the numbers, but the governor declined.

Congress plays spoilsport

The Congress indicated on Monday that it was unwilling to enter into an unholy alliance with a saffron party. Uddhav’s announcement that he will visit Ayodhya on November 24 and his overt attempt to politically exploit the verdict may not have sat well with the Congress.

Even the fact that the Sena quit the NDA earlier in the day to build trust in the Congress failed to move Sonia Gandhi.

Congress refuses to back SenaNCP chief Sharad Pawar at YB Chavan auditorium after a core committee meeting

Congress sources said even pressure from many of its Maharashtra MLAs did not convince Gandhi. Gandhi also spoke to Uddhav who also conferred with Pawar. Sena leaders Anil Desai and Milind Narvekar camped at senior Congress leader Ahmed Patel’s Delhi residence but in vain.

With Congress not responding positively, the NCP also played it safe by refusing a letter of support. Senior Congress leaders from New Delhi are expected to visit Mumbai on Tuesday to meet Pawar to design a strategy either to support the Sena or take the saffron party’s support for their government.

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First Published: 12 November, 2019 07:19 IST

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