President's rule will mean Advantage BJP
As Uddhav Thackeray-Devendra Fadnavis face-off turns ugly, CM resigns; state stares at President's rule.
Maharashtra braced for President's rule after an extraordinary day when the Bharatiya Janata Party and the Shiv Sena dubbed each other liars, over what transpired during power-sharing talks before polls. The BJP has 105 MLAs and ally Shiv Sena 56. People voted the alliance back to power, but with the term of the Assembly ending on Saturday, no government was formed due to the divide over who will be the CM.
The ugly fracas was reignited on Friday with Devendra Fadnavis reiterating that the Sena wasn't promised a CM stint during the February negotiations. The CM blamed the delay in the formation of the government on the Sena, saying the latter had already made up its mind to explore options other than the BJP even on the day of results. He said the Sena must immediately correct its course and stop lashing out at PM Narendra Modi and party president Amit Shah if the alliance was to continue further.
It all seemed like the BJP wants the Sena to announce the break-up if its terms were unacceptable. The BJP has made it clear it will not stake claim to form government till the Sena makes its stand clear.
The governor will now decide which party or alliance to invite first and if no one comes forward, will recommend President's rule, which insiders say will give the Centre an opportunity to take up public issues, like the wet drought mitigation.
Sources told mid-day the BJP has been preparing a large relief package for distressed farmers. The Centre will only be too happy to implement it through the governor. Similarly, ongoing state and Centre-sponsored projects will be taken forward without an elected government. The party will reach out to people in a bid to prepare a favourable ground for mid-term polls, if needed.
On the other hand, neither the Sena nor other Opposition parties will want another election immediately. If they are to ensure there is no election, the Congress and NCP will have to go with the Sena to keep the BJP away from ruling the state directly or indirectly. The three parties have the numbers to do it.
Narayan Rane during Devendra Fadnavis's press conference at Sahyadri Guest House
Thackeray reiterated the options available to him and refused to call them unholy, citing the BJP's pacts with parties that held diametrically opposite views. However, the Opposition has taken a cautious approach, as they are not confident that the Sena will snap ties with the BJP.
Critically, Sena sources said it will continue to demand a stint in the CMO even if President's rule is imposed.
Earlier in the day, referring to the confirmation from his party president Amit Shah, Fadnavis reiterated that the Sena was never assured the CM's office during negotiations. Thackeray responded by terming Fadnavis a liar and threatened to sever ties with a leader who has led a BJP-Sena government.
Friday's dramatic face-off between 'old friends' Fadnavis and Thackeray pointed to more muscle-flexing in the days to come.
Fadnavis said the Sena must stop hitting Modi and Shah below the belt. He added that the statements made by Sena spokesperson Sanjay Raut and editorials published in the party paper Saamna had hurt the BJP most. Fadnavis recalled the Sena's criticism in the past five years, which he said would put the opposition to shame for its abusive language.
Congress Opposition leader Vijay Wadettivar addressing the media on Friday
Thackeray's response exposed the hostility he has recently developed for Fadnavis. "I wouldn't have supported any person other than Fadnavis in 2014 because I considered him a friend. But this time I didn't take his calls because he tried to prove me a liar despite knowing the truth. He had asked me to not make the promise on the CMO public because he said the declaration, if made, will create problems for him in the BJP," he said.
Sources in the Sena said if the power sharing talks resume, Thackeray might ask for Fadnavis to be replaced as CM. Thackeray wondered if Hindutva approved of "such liars". He appealed to the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh to take note of the "untruths spoken by BJP leaders". Senior BJP minister Sudhir Mungantiwar dismissed Thackeray's allegations. "People know who is lying," he said.
Uddhav has, however, kept the lines open for the BJP's high command, though he said he had been expecting Shah to intervene for a fortnight now. "I don't treat the BJP as an enemy," he said.
- As Uddhav-Fadnavis face-off turns ugly, CM resigns; state stares at President's rule
- The BJP will look to use a caretaker government or President's rule to strengthen ground for mid-term polls
- Only way for the Opposition and the Sena to deny the BJP power is to come together
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