Activities to form the government in Maharashtra are expected to gain momentum after Sunday when NCP chief Sharad Pawar is expected to meet Congress interim president Sonia Gandhi in Delhi.
A tie-up between Shiv Sena, Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) and Congress to form the government in Maharashtra seemed likely as the three parties on Thursday said a common minimum programme (CMP) was being finalised.
Significantly, NCP said the next chief minister will be from Sena. “The next chief minister will be from Sena as it is our responsibility to ensure the self-respect of the party [Shiv Sena] that has left its old alliance. Whether Congress will be part of the government or will extend outside support will be decided soon,” said Nawab Malik, NCP’s Mumbai president.
Activities to form the government are expected to gain momentum after Sunday when NCP chief Sharad Pawar is expected to meet Congress interim president Sonia Gandhi in Delhi.
Watch l ‘Chief Minister will be from Shiv Sena’: NCP leader Nawab Malik
According to leaders who are privy to the developments, Gandhi and Pawar are likely to meet Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray soon after the scheduled meeting between first two leaders. It is likely to be a crucial meeting that can put the final stamp of agreement on the power-sharing formula.
Meanwhile, former chief minister Devendra Fadnavis told newly-elected Bharatiya Janata arty (BJP) MLAs that no party can form the government in the state without BJP.
Maharashtra on Tuesday came under President’s rule after no party could show numbers to form a government, 19 days after the Assembly polls.
For the first time since they began working on the formation of the government, leaders of the three parties sat together and discussed the details of their coalition. Following the meeting, they announced that they had prepared the draft of a CMP for governance, which would now be sent to the heads of all three parties for their consent, following which it would be finalised.
“We have prepared the draft of the CMP. We will now send this to heads of three parties. They will finalise it,” said Eknath Shinde, Sena’s legislative unit head. Top state leaders from all three parties participated in the day-long deliberations.
Insiders said the three parties are expected to finalise the government-formation plan in the next few days.
There are different proposals being discussed between the three parties, according to the leaders who are involved in the process. That include sharing of chief ministership by Sena and NCP for a half tenure each or the chief minister’s post to Sena for the entire tenure, with two deputy chief ministers from NCP and Congress. If Congress doesn’t participate in the government, then the party would stake claim for the Assembly speaker’s post.
A Sena leader said his party wants chief ministership for the entire five-year tenure. In exchange, NCP could be given home and finance departments, he added.
Significantly, the Sena is also considering an option to have chief minister without portfolio, especially if party chief Uddhav Thackeray is taking up the top job. The three parties will identify six key portfolios such as home, finance, urban development and revenue and divide it equally between them. The formula to share ministerial berth is not decided yet. “It could be on the basis of numbers or equal among three partners. We are trying to ensure that there won’t be much disputes if we form the government,” said a top NCP leader.
“We have drawn the list of top six departments, which will be equally distributed among three parties, followed by the other less significant departments. Congress has pressed for equal share of power and is unlikely to settle for anything less than 14 departments. In such a case, NCP may get one department more from Sena, by giving up the demand of rotational chief ministership,” the leader said.
NCP has also suggested a formula of 15 berths each for itself and Sena and 12 for the Congress as the party has got fewer seats comparatively. “Congress is demanding equal distribution of berths among all the three parties with each of them taking 14. But we have said the Congress should take less berths as they have
got 10 fewer seats than the Sena and eight less than NCP. Instead, we have suggested one minister berth against four MLAs. If Sena is also getting CM position than the party’s strength will reach up to 16 in the ministerial council,” said a NCP leader.
The party may leave the claim if Thackeray is ready to take the job. In that case, the government will have two deputy chief ministers — one each from NCP and Congress. The Congress and NCP have also suggested Thackeray to take CM position without any other portfolios just like Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal. “We have suggested Thackeray to overlook the government as a chief minister and indirectly he will be not answerable for anything. This will help him run the government smoothly,” said another senior NCP leader requesting anonymity.
“If Thackeray is ready to become the chief minister, then both NCP and Congress will demand deputy chief minister position. NCP will also demand for either revenue or finance department, which will be given to the leader in addition to the deputy CM position,” he added.
Congress and NCP held rounds of meetings between them on Wednesday and gave final touch before discussing it with Sena on Thursday. Before it, state unit chiefs of Congress and NCP met Uddhav Thackeray on Thursday morning at a hotel in Bandra-Kurla Complex (BKC). The rough draft prepared by the Congress and NCP leaders was finalised during their meeting with Sena leaders Eknath Shinde and Subhash Desai.
The CMP is expected to keep the issue of farmers at the centre of it. The leaders have referred to their respective election manifesto, while finalising the draft. Besides the blanket loan waiver and a scheme for the pay-out for the price difference scheme on the lines of the Bhavantar Yojana launched in Madhya Pradesh, the farmers are expected to get assured cash subsidy per month. The parties have reportedly included points related to the unemployment allowance, meal thali in ₹10 among others. Former chief minister and senior Congress leader Prithviraj Chavan, who was in charge of manifesto committee in Assembly election has fine tuned the draft.
Sena has won 56 seats, while NCP and Congress have 54 and 44 members in the new Assembly. BJP had emerged as the single largest party with 105 seats.
Meanwhile, addressing BJP MLAs in Mumbai, Fadnavis expressed confidence that no government can be formed in Maharashtra without BJP. “The BJP got a clear mandate in the election. Sena could retain its seats because of us,” he added. He also told legislators to reach out to farmers who are facing losses due to recent unseasonal rains.
BJP leader Ashish Shelar told the media that the party is keenly watching the developments that have been unfolding in the state.