MUMBAI: Sensing the rapidly changing political scenario in Maharashtra, the Shiv Sena on Tuesday sent out feelers to the BJP for a possible realignment. Senior Sena leaders Subhash Desai and Anil Desai reached New Delhi in the night to hold talks with their former allies. They were expected to talk to BJP general secretary J P Nadda, who was made Maharashtra in-charge of the party, on Wednesday.
In Mumbai, meanwhile, Sena leader Diwakar Raote said too appeared to be trying to mend fences. “Like-minded people must come together to form the government. We are natural allies,” he said.
The Sena feelers came on a day when BJP State president Devendra Fadnavis said the party was contemplating leading a minority government. “P V Narasimha Rao ran a minority government (at the Centre) for five years. We can do the same,” Fadnavis said.
The race for the post of the Chief Minister too heated up with senior BJP leader Sudhir Mungantiwar pitching for Union Minister Nitin Gadkari. “State BJP leaders feel that Nitin Gadkariji should come back to the state politics and take up the position of the CM of Maharashtra. He has a lot of administrative experience behind him which makes him an ideal candidate,” said Mungantiwar, also a member of state BJP core committee.
Asked whether Gadkari was going to lead the government, Fadnavis (another CM contender), Eknath Khadse and Vinod Tawde, who are part of the decision-making process, maintained studious silence. While Fadnavis stated the obvious that the CM would be from the BJP, Khadse said the legislators and the party’s parliamentary board will decide on a name. Tawde said Gadkari himself had denied a return to the State.
When party chief Amit Shah asked him in the parliamentary board meeting whether he wanted to be the CM, Gadkari had declined the role. The Union Transport Minister on Tuesday said he was ready to cooperate with anyone chosen as the Chief Minister.
A section of the party believes that an aggressive Gadkari could deal with an equally aggressive NCP or Shiv Sena in a more effective way than the soft-spoken Fadnavis. “Gadkari can take on anyone. He will demand a free hand and no interference from Delhi in the State. Fadnavis is likely to be a puppet in the hands of some seniors,” a BJP leader said.
Earlier in the day, Gadkari, meanwhile, met Finance Minister Arun Jaitley at the latter’s residence in New Delhi and spent about half an hour discussing the party’s strategy ahead of government-formation. They are reported to have discussed the party’s choices available in Maharashtra. NCP has already offered
unconditional support to BJP but the saffron party has not decided on whether to accept it or not.
BJP has won 122 seats in the 288-member Assembly, falling short of the majority mark by 23 seats. Sena has 63 seats while NCP has 41. Sources say if Sena rides the high horse, BJP may elect its leader and form a government and prove on the floor its majority with the tacit or open support of NCP.