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Published On: Mon, Nov 4th, 2019

Sonia rules out alliance with Shiv Sena in Maharashtra

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659-president-of-ncp-sharad-pawar-clicked-along-with-member-of-the-lok-image-88005500_20190204_216NEW DELHI/ MUMBAI :  : Congress President Sonia Gandhi has ruled out any support to Shiv Sena for a new power alignment in Maharashtra, sources told .
Opposition stalwart Sharad Pawar’s attempts to persuade the Congress to accept a formula in which his Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) and the Congress back the Shiv Sena in forming government in Maharashtra to block the BJP, does not appear to have made much headway.
The 79-year-old NCP chief, said to be in favour of such a formula, met Congress president Sonia Gandhi in Delhi. But the Congress is not on board for now, Sharad Pawar indicated.
Mrs Gandhi had a meeting this evening with the party’s Maharashtra ally Sharad Pawar, said to be in favour of such an alliance to block the BJP from coming to power in the state. While nothing was said about what transpired at the meeting, Mr Pawar spoke of another having meeting in the near future, indicating that today’s discussions did not have a favourable outcome.

The Shiv Sena, engaged in a tussle with the BJP over the Chief Minister’s post, has been hinting that it is ready to form government with Sharad Pawar’s Nationalist Congress Party and the Congress. Senior party leader Sanjay Raut even met the Governor today, during which, he said, they discussed the political situation in the state.
Sources in the Congress said Sonia Gandhi has entirely ruled out any dealing with Sena, though a section of the party’s state leaders are said to be in favour of it. She has given a “polite political no” to Mr Pawar’s suggestions, sources said.
After the meeting, Mr Pawar told reporters that Sena-BJP tussle was their “internal matter” and that the Sena has not given him “any assurance”. But he also admitted that he does not have the numbers to “be in the government” and that he was ready to sit in the opposition.
About his visit, he said the Congress and the NCP leaders had “discussed the way ahead, and it was decided to brief leadership in Delhi… My visit was in this regard”. The term of the Maharashtra assembly ends on November 9 and unless a new government is formed before that, President’s Rule can be declared in the state.
“Whoever has the mandate, will form the government. I cannot advise Governor. He will take his own decision,” Mr Raut said today

Congress working president Sonia Gandhi is caught between her ‘commitment to secularism’ and her desire to keep the BJP out of power in Maharashtra as she deliberates over the feasibility of partnering the Shiv Sena, The Newstrack24x7 .com has learnt.

NCP chief Sharad Pawar has had telephonic discussions with her twice to explore the possibility of forming a non-BJP government in the state but she has remained non-committal due to this dilemma, according to multiple Congress sources. “Yes, they have spoken. Pawar saheb will leave for New Delhi this evening to meet her (Sonia Gandhi) tomorrow,” said NCP national spokesperson Nawab Malik Sunday.
Pawar has, however, maintained publicly that the mandate of the NCP — which won 54 seats — was to sit on the opposition benches.

In a meeting with senior party leaders on the Maharashtra political stalemate at 10 Janpath Friday, Sonia Gandhi was learnt to have expressed reservations about any tie-up with the Shiv Sena. “How will it reflect on our commitment to secularism? You know what the Shiv Sena has done in the past,” a Congress leader quoted her as saying.
Senior party leaders A.K. Antony and K.C. Venugopal were learnt to have echoed her views on the Shiv Sena’s non-secular credentials and opposed any tie-up, said the leader. Mallikarjun Kharge, former Maharashtra chief ministers Prithviraj Chavan and Ashok Chavan, and senior leaders Balasaheb Thorat and Manikrao Thakre were among those who attended the meeting.
As many as 40 of 44 Congress MLAs are in favour of putting up a non-BJP government even if it means supporting the Shiv Sena, he added. Congress sources said the Sena hasn’t made any proposal to the Congress directly yet but has been discussing “various possibilities” with the NCP leadership.
What seems to be preventing the Congress high command from expressing support to a non-BJP formation in Mumbai is the “apprehension” that the Shiv Sena could be using the Congress and the NCP only as “a bargaining chip” in its negotiations with the BJP.

“But, don’t forget that the Sena and the BJP are ideological brethren. Unless and until they formally declare their separation, we are not going to commit anything either way.”The Shiv Sena is the BJP’s oldest ally but their relationship has been strained over recent years.
While they contested this month’s assembly election as partners, and together have the numbers to form the state government, the Shiv Sena’s demand for a 50-50 distribution of power has put their tie-up on slippery ground.
As the stand-off over chief ministership in Maharashtra continues, Shiv Sena spokesperson Sanjay Raut has indicated that his party is not ruling out a possible alliance with the NCP and Congress to shore up the numbers required to form the government in the state.

Indian Express reported that Raut has insisted that his party is not likely to give up on its demand for chief ministership, and that “there would be a Sena chief minister [whose] oath-taking ceremony would take place at Shivaji Park in Mumbai”.
Although BJP and Shiv Sena had worked out a pre-poll alliance, the latter has been insisting on getting the chief minister’s position, at least for half of the next government’s tenure. Neither of the parties has the numbers to form the government on their own.While the BJP has 105 seats, the Shiv Sena won 56 in the 288-member assembly. The NCP and Congress together have 98 seats. The combine would thus need Sena’s support to form the government.

Meanwhile, Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray, when asked whether his party would join hands with NCP and Congress, said, “You will get to know in the coming days.”
Although Fadnavis told reporters that his visit to Delhi was only to seek relief for farmers hit by unseasonal rains, sources claim that the Chief Minister will also discuss strategies with Shah to bring Shiv Sena on board.
The BJP has already said that it was ready to give anywhere between 13-15 ministerial berths to Shiv Sena. However, the Thackeray-led party has reportedly made clear that it would not settle for anything less than the chief minister’s chair, along with two ministerial berths at the Centre and governorships in two states.
The possibility of Sena joining hands with NCP and Congress – both secular forces – also seems unlikely. A senior NCP functionary told Indian Express, “Pawar has set his new target as regaining the organisation’s lost grounds in zilla parishad polls next year. Any attempt to join hands with the Sena will prove detrimental.”
(Bureau Report from Mumbai with Agency Inputs).




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