At their first formal meeting, Shiv Sena legislators on Thursday elected state minister Eknath Shinde as Sena’s legislative party leader after Aaditya Thackeray and his father Uddhav agreed that the 29-year-old should sit out of the BJP-Sena alliance government for now.
Aaditya Thackeray, the first from the Sena’s first family to enter the state assembly, had told his party leaders that he didn’t want to be part of the government for now. Senior Sena leaders say his father Uddhav agreed.
“Uddhavji is of the opinion that Aaditya should learn the legislative proceedings and governance for a year or two before joining the government,” a senior Sena leader told HT.
With son Aaditya out of the reckoning, Sena boss Uddhav Thackeray was expected to go for either Eknath Shinde or Subhash Desai, the two party seniors who are also ministers in the outgoing government.
Aaditya Thackeray’s decision will also impact how the Sena negotiates for cabinet berths in the new government with its alliance partner, the Bharatiya Janata Party.
A senior Sena leader also said Uddhav Thackeray may not accept deputy chief ministership since son Aaditya is not going to be part of the BJP-Shiv Sena government at this point.
Under the power-sharing formula that is under discussion between the two alliance partners, the BJP is offering the Shiv Sena 2-3 more berths in the council of ministers over the 13 slots that it has had in the 2014 edition of the alliance government. If the Sena doesn’t want the deputy chief minister’s post, it could throw in one more cabinet berth. But the Sena wants some more spots.
In the outgoing government, the BJP has 27 ministers, the Sena 13 and smaller allies have another three.
The BJP has made it clear that the chief minister’s post wasn’t up for discussion. Neither are strategically important portfolios such as home, finance, revenue and urban development.
It has offered public works, housing and agriculture departments among others to the Sena.
The negotiations to firm up the shape and format of the new government that is likely to be formed early next week, will enter the home stretch over the weekend, people familiar with the development said. The two sides have been locked in a bitter tussle over sharing power after the saffron combine was re-elected in the October 24 counting of votes for the state elections held three days earlier.
The BJP won 105 seats and the Sena bagged 56 in the 288-member assembly. The opposition Nationalist Congress Party has 54 seats while its alliance partner Congress has 44. Independents and smaller parties together – including partners of both alliances – have 29 seats.
The Sena had started the negotiations by demanding that the BJP stick to a 50-50 power-sharing formula the two parties had reportedly decided in February this year. Devendra Fadnavis, the BJP’s presumptive chief minister, has denied that there was any decision to share the chief minister’s post.
Political analyst Prakash Bal said that as expected Shiv Sena is likely to back down from its hardened stand taken after the results were announced. “Shiv Sena has been talking tough to keep the morale of its cadre high but ultimately appears to have softened its stand after BJP hardened its stand. The party has done this for the last five years.”
Shiv Sena MP Sanjay Raut on Thursday questioned the perception that his party had backed down, particularly after he was seen to be reluctant to continue hurling darts at the BJP.