With the differences between the Bharatiya Janata Party and Shiv Sena to form a government in Maharashtra seemingly intractable now, the Congress and the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) could back a Shiv Sena-led government in Maharashtra, people familiar with the developments said Sunday.
The Congress top brass is still discussing the proposal of the Maharashtra unit to extend outside support to a Shiv Sena-led government supported actively by the NCP. Significantly, the party’s MLAs in Maharashtra have backed such a decision to keep the BJP out of power.
Congress central leaders discussed the issue at a meeting Sunday night in Jaipur where it has lodged its MLAs to prevent poaching by the BJP. Rajasthan’s chief minister and senior party leader Ashok Gehlot is spearheading the party’s strategy on its role in formation of the government in Maharashtra. Two senior party leaders from Delhi are also in touch with Gehlot and state leaders.
The Congress has not officially declared its stand on its role in government formation in Maharashtra which has stalled over a fight for rotating chief ministership between the BJP and the Sena.
Maharashtra Congress leaders including Balasaheb Thorat, Vijay Wadettiwar attended the meetings with Gehlot and party MLAs lodged in Jaipur on Sunday.
“We are hopeful that the party high command gives its nod to support the Shiv Sena-led government in the state to keep BJP out of power. We took a decision to this effect in Jaipur on Saturday night but it needs to be approved by the party leadership,” said a senior Congress leader who did not wish to be named.
“We could not decide whether to participate actively or to give outside support. Most of the party MLAs and second-rung leaders from state unit wanted to be part of the government. They expressed it during the meeting in Jaipur on Saturday. But the leadership has explained them the party doesn’t want to form a government with Sena,” he said.
The Congress leadership is wary of the reaction minorities which is its traditional vote base if it decides to be part of the government.
“Any decision about supporting the Sena-NCP government will be officially announced only after Shiv Sena clears its stand and come forward to form the government,” said the Congress leader.
Former Mumbai Congress chief Sanjay NIrupam has warned the party not to support the Shiv
Sena even from outside. “It will be impractical and will damage party immensely,” he said.
But another Congress leader and former union minister Milid Deora said on Sunday that the Maharashtra Governor should invite Congress-NCP, the second largest alliance to form the government.
The NCP has indicated it is interested in forming government with Sena. “If BJP fails to form the government, we will not let President’s rule be imposed in Maharashtra. We will play an active role in formation of the government in the state,” NCP chief Sharad Pawar said Sunday.
“If BJP forms the government, we will defeat it on the floor of the house. If Shiv Sena comes forward and asks for our support, our leadership will take a decision on it at appropriate time. Our sole aim is to keep the BJP out of power,” said NCP spokesperson Nawab Malik.