As its flock of Maharashtra MLAs huddled together in a Jaipur resort, the Congress Working Committee met in New Delhi on Monday to take a decision on whether or not to support the Shiv Sena in forming a government in the state.
The meeting, chaired by party president Sonia Gandhi at her residence, was inconclusive and the party leadership will meet again at 4 pm, party insiders said, amid indications that the legislators were not in favour of fresh elections in the state.
"We will sit again at 4 pm and will decide on the issue after a meeting with our state leaders," All India Congress Committee general secretary in-charge for Maharashtra Mallikarjun Kharge said after the CWC meeting.
Three Maharashtra former chief ministers Ashok Chavan, Prithivraj Chavan and Sushilkumar Shinde, Pradesh Congress Committee chief Balasaheb Thorat and Congress Legislature Party leader K C Padavi will meet the senior leadership of the party.
Kharge said leaders from the state will give their views to the leadership and the party will decide on its course of action after that.
Congress leaders from Maharashtra Ashok Chavan, Prithviraj Chavan and Pradesh Congress Committee chief Balasaheb Thorat are attending the meeting along with the top brass of the party, including Ahmed Patel.
The CWC is the highest decision making body of the Congress.
"We have always maintained distance from the right wing party which is the Shiv Sena. Their internal differences have precipitated the situation in Maharashtra," said senior Congress leader M M Pallam Raju.
Hectic deliberations about the possibility of the Congress participating in government formation in Maharashtra started on Sunday after its long-time political adversary Shiv Sena was invited to form the government by Governor Bhagat Singh Koshyari.
He did so after the Bharatiya Janata Party announced it would not form government in the state.
Congress legislators held a meeting with senior party leaders on the issue in Jaipur on Sunday and said they did not want fresh elections in the state, party insiders said.
Kharge heard the views of all party MLAs and conveyed their feelings to the party chief and the CWC, they said.
The Sena is the second largest party in the 288-member House with 56 MLAs after the BJP (105).
Given the stalemate between the two alliance partners, the role of the Congress with its 44 legislators and the Nationalist Congress Party with 54 MLAs is crucial. The Shiv Sena has time till 7.30 pm on Monday to stake claim.
Sources said NCP chief Sharad Pawar may also meet the Congress president on Monday to discuss the possibility of the two parties supporting a Sena-led government.
Kharge had earlier said in Jaipur that his party has 'accepted' the public mandate to it to sit in the opposition in the state.
"Now it is for the party high command to take a decision, we have left it to the party's high command," he asserted.
"There are some statements... some are talking about support to Shiv Sena and some are denying but there is no fact in such statements. The Congress party's stand is that we have to go with the public mandate and the Congress and NCP have to sit in the opposition," he told reporters.
In Maharashtra, the Pawar-led party said the Sena will have to walk out of the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance first to discuss having its support.
The newly elected MLAs of the Maharashtra Congress are staying at a resort in Jaipur.
Senior Shiv Sena leader Sanjay Raut on Monday said there was no point in continuing its alliance with the BJP if it was not willing to fulfil its promise of sharing the chief minister's post in Maharashtra.
Reaching out to the opposition parties, Raut said the Congress and the NCP should bury their internal differences to come up with a 'common minimum programme' in the interest of Maharashtra.
Sena leader Arvind Sawant, the lone party minister in the Narendra Modi cabinet, has announced his decision to quit the National Democratic Alliance government at the Centre.