NEW DELHI: Despite pressure from a majority of the Congress MLAs and even a section of the central party leadership to support a Shiv Sena-NCP government in Maharashtra, the Congress put off a decision in order to “have further discussions with the NCP” because Congress chief Sonia Gandhi had apprehensions about supporting the Sena, a party that is at the opposite end of the ideological spectrum.
Sources said Sonia had severe reservations about being on the same side as the Sena although almost all party MLAs, whom she met individually, favoured the idea.
The MLAs’ contention was if this opportunity was not grabbed with both hands, it would open up the possibility of some leaving the party to join hands with the BJP. But, sources said, Sonia would have none of it, refusing to take a call.
“The Congress president was apprehensive about supporting a Sena-led government. It was Sharad Pawar who insisted on joining the alliance. The party asked him to work out a deal,” said a senior Congress leader.
Sources said the NCP chief put pressure on the Congress high command through Ahmed Patel. “It was Pawar who insisted that some Congress MLAs write to Sonia to lend support to the alliance,” the sources added.
Pawar’s push split the Congress down the middle, with state leaders and the MLAs ranged against the central party leadership.
Sources said while senior Maharashtra leader Ashok Chavan, Prithviraj Chavan and PCC chief Balasaheb Thorat were inclined to support Sena-NCP, Sonia and Maharashtra in-charge Mallikarjun Kharge opposed it.
“Some MLAs even suggested the party should join the Sena-NCP government as lending outside support leaves MLAs vulnerable to poaching,” said a Congress MLA who met Sonia.
Congress leaders question Governor’s decision
Some party MLAs questioned Maharashtra Governor Bhagat Singh Koshyari’s decision to reject Sena’s willingness to form the government. “Majority support has to be proved on the floor of the House. None of the MLAs has taken oath even after 20 days of the election results,” said another MLA.
Congress leaders said had the party decided to support to a Sena-led government, it would have left the field open for the BJP to tear the party to shreds and accuse it of being hypocritical and power-hungry.
They said the negative impact of supporting Uddhav Thackeray’s party may not have been felt in the Jharkhand elections but in the long term, it would have been difficult to justify supporting the Sena, a party that stands for Hindutva, exclusiveness and ‘Marathi Manoos’.