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|October 8, 1999||
Race to form the next govt in Maharashtra hots up
Hectic politicking has commenced in Maharashtra to form the next government. With none of the three political combinations - the Congress and its partners, the Sena-BJP alliance and the Nationalist Congress Party-led Progressive Democratic Front - getting anywhere close to the magical half-way mark of 144, the focus has now shifted to smaller parties and independents.
Both the Shiv Sena and the Congress today staked claim to form the government in the state. While Congress believes that being the single largest party it should be invited to form the government, the Sena-BJP claims that being the largest pre-poll combination the alliance deserved a call from the governor.
The Congress in Maharashtra today staked its claim to form the government in the state and said that the party is in a position to prove its majority on the floor of the house.
A high-level delegation of the party led by the Maharashtra Pradesh Congress Committee president Prataprao Bhosale met the Governor Dr P C Alexander at Raj Bhavan and requested him to invite the Congress to form the next government in the state.
After a 30-minute meeting with the governor, Bhosale told reporters that the Congress which has bagged 75 seats out of the total 288, is now getting support from a large number of newly-elected MLAs. However, he refused to divulge the details at this stage.
On being asked about getting support from the Sharad Pawar-led Nationalist Congress Party, he refused to reveal anything. When his attention was drawn to the statement of the NCP state unit president and leader of the opposition in the state legislative council Chhagan Bhujbal that both the Congress groups should come together, he said he knew of it but ''at this stage I cannot comment anything.''
A joint meeting of the Shiv Sena and the BJP leaders will be held tomorrow to chalk out a strategy to form the next government in Maharashtra.
Sena chief Bal Thackeray and alliance creator BJP leader Pramod Mahajan will participate in the meeting which would be held at Sena Bhavan, the state headquarters of the Sena in Dadar, in the morning. Others to be present in the meeting would be the newly elected legislators of both the parties.
The MLAs of other political parties supporting the alliance are also expected to attend the meeting, the sources claimed.
The Shiv Sena-BJP ruling alliance, which has won 125 seats, is 19 short of a working majority. Though the Congress, which has emerged as the single largest party with 75 seats, and the Nationalist Congress Party with its 58 seats have a realistic chance of forming the government, much would depend on how they overcome the acrimony of Sharad Pawar's split from the Congress a few months back.
It's the smaller parties and 12 independents who hold the key to next assembly. The players to watch are the Peasants and Workers Party (five seats), the Bharipa Bahujan Mahasangh (three), the CPI-M (two), Janata Dal-secular (two), the Samajwadi Party (two) and the Gondwana Ganantra Party, the Native Peoples' Party and the Samajwadi Janata Party (one each).
Interestingly most of these smaller parties were the pre-poll allies of either the Congress or the NCP. However, out of the 12 independents, six were backed by the saffron alliance.
Yesterday, as soon as it became clear that the state was headed for a hung assembly, a high-level meeting of the alliance was convened at Matoshree, the residence of the Sena chief Balasaheb Thackeray. Among those who attended the meeting were Chief Minister Narayan Rane, former chief minister, Manohar Joshi, state BJP president, Suryabhan Wahadane-Patil, Deputy Chief Minister Gopinath Munde and the Sena chief's son Uddhav and nephew Raj.
Emerging after the parleys, the chief minister said the Sena-BJP alliance would stake its claim to form the next government. However, he did not specify any date. He claimed several independents have pledged support to the alliance.
Meanwhile, Pawar has air-dashed to Bombay to hold talks with party MPs, MLAs and MLCs of his party. He would hold a meeting later in the day where the issue of government formation would be discussed.
The NCP state unit president and the leader of opposition in state legislative council, Chhagan Bhujbal, has gone on record saying that his party was not averse to the idea of joining hands with the Congress.
Senior Congress leader, Sushil Kumar Shinde, however, felt that any such decision would have to be taken at the national level. A section of party is also demanding that Pawar apologise for his actions before any talk of an alliance.
The AICC has deputed AICC general secretary, Madhavrao Scindia and Congress Working Committee member Mohsina Kidwai to Mumbai to interact with the party MLAs, Congress spokesperson, Kapil Sibal said in New Delhi.
Replying to a question, he said the Congress had not received any proposal from the Nationalist Congress Party on the question of extending support.
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