Around the time that Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis was walking out of his meeting at Raj Bhavan, Shiv Sena leader Sanjay Raut reached out to Nationalist Congress Party chief Sharad Pawar for their third meeting in a fortnight. It didn’t go on for very long.
Raut emerged from Pawar’s residence in Mumbai’s Malad West long before Fadnavis wrapped up his detailed statement after handing over his resignation letter to Governor Bhagat Singh Koshyari. The governor has asked Fadnavis to continue as acting chief minister till he makes alternative arrangements. There is no clarity what this might be. There has been a buzz that the Sena might just stake claim, quite like the speculation its party leaders have fuelled for days.
Sanjay Raut did not clarify what the Sena’s next step would be.
But what was he doing at Pawar’s residence, a reporter asked him. Raut said they were watching TV; Fadnavis’ press conference. “Both of us heard the entire press conference of Devendra Fadnavis,” Raut, among the most visible Sena face in recent days who used the ally BJP as a dartboard over the last fortnight. He hurled one more.
“We can form the government if we want, and we can install a chief minister from Shiv Sena,” said Sanjay Raut, his response to Fadnavis who had just resigned as chief minister but prophesied that the next chief minister of the state would be from the BJP.
The BJP, Raut said, should try. If the chief minister says that his government will come back, then it must go ahead. Because in a democracy, those with the numbers can form the government.
Raut ducked questions around the possibility of the Shiv Sena staking claim with the support of Sharad Pawar’s party NCP and the Congress. But delivered a sharp counterattack at the BJP when he was asked about Devendra Fadnavis’ charge that Sena leaders had stooped low to mount personal attacks at Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Fadnavis had said he was hurt by these attacks on PM Modi and didn’t expect such attacks from opposition leaders, much less an ally at the Centre and the state.
Raut countered him, asking people to check the records for the last fortnight to spot one statement against PM Modi or BJP boss Amit Shah.
“We have not made any statements against PM Modi and Amit Shah. But BJP has a history of forging alliances with those who have been critical of both the leaders,” Sanjay Raut said. He did not elaborate but the barb is seen as a reference to Haryana Haryana deputy chief minister Dushyant Chautala who had been a sharp critic of PM Modi before he tied up with BJP to join the Manohar Lal Khattar government. Uddhav Thackeray made the same point during his press conference that followed. Thackeray even played out some of the comments that Chautala had made.