NAGPUR: As the Maharashtra government formation efforts reach a critical stage, Union Transport Minister Nitin Gadkari is likely to meet Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) chief Mohan Bhagwat at its headquarters here on Thursday, according to sources.
Gadkari and Bhagwat are expected to discuss the political scenario with both the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-Shiv Sena unwilling to let go off the Chief Minister's post as the prospects of President's Rule loom ahead by this weekend.
Sena MP Sanjay Raut on Thursday again reiterated that the next government will be formed by his party with its own Chief Minister, but has not spelt out how it will be achieved.
Raut, who claims the support of 175 MLAs, repeated his challenge to the BJP to stake a claim to the government and produce 145 signatures of support - the simple majority mark in the 288-member Assembly.
The BJP's incumbent Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis is also adamant on the post compelling the party to consider options, with the mantle likely to fall on Gadkari.
A veteran politician, a former state Minister, former BJP President, who some refer to as a 'Crisis Pehalwan', Gadkari is currently a Union Minister and enjoys a good equation with the RSS and all other political parties.
In the current political imbroglio, many in the BJP and RSS - besides the ally Shiv Sena - are optimistic that Gadkari can cut the Gordian's Knot in 'two hours' and pave the way for a saffron combine government to take office.
Gadkari also enjoys a good rapport with Sena President Uddhav Thackeray and earlier his father, the party's founder, the late Bal Thackeray, and several Sena ministers, many of them were his cabinet colleagues in the erstwhile Sena-BJP government of 1995-1999.
Besides Gadkari's meeting with Bhagwat, a BJP delegation will call on Governor B.S. Koshyari and Thackeray will address a meeting of Sena's newly-elected legislators later in the day.
On the other hand, senior Shiv Sena leader Sanjay Raut on Thursday said that there have been no talks yet between Bhagwat and party president Uddhav Thackeray.
Talking to reporters in Mumbai ahead of the meeting of Shiv Sena MLAs with Thackeray, Raut said legislators of his party and the opposition Congress and NCP "would not cross sides".
"There have been no talks yet between Bhagwat and Thackeray," the Rajya Sabha member said.
Asked if he represented views of his party amid the logjam over government formation in the state, Raut said, "I put forth views of Uddhav Thackeray."
A delegation of BJP leaders led by the party's state chief Chandrakant Patil is also slated to meet Governor Bhagat Singh Koshyari on Thursday.
Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis, who has been elected as the BJP Legislative Party leader in Maharashtra, is not a part of the delegation.
The BJP and the Shiv Sena are engaged in a bitter tug-of-war over the latter's demand for equal distribution of portfolios and sharing the chief minister's post.
The BJP has rejected Sena's demand for sharing the chief minister's post for two-and-a-half years each.
The tenure of the present Assembly ends on November 9.
Sources from both the parties on Wednesday said back-channel talks were on between the two old but often-feuding Hindutva allies and a breakthrough was expected.
(With PTI and ANI Inputs)