Chances of another Bharatiya Janata Party-Shiv Sena government in Maharashtra brightened on Friday as opposition Congress and Nationalist Congress Party ruled out aligning with the Shiv Sena to keep the BJP out of power.
In the 288-member Assembly, the BJP has won 105 seats, while ally Sena bagged 56.
The NCP bagged 54 seats and the Congress emerged victorious in 44 seats.
The results for the October 21 poll were declared on Thursday. Maharashtra Congress president Balasaheb Thorat ruled out joining hands with the Shiv Sena to keep BJP out of power, saying the mandate for his party was to be a responsible Opposition.
Addressing a press conference on Friday, Thorat said the Congress doesn't have a 'strategy or a proposal' to back a Shiv Sena-led government.
"So the question of we offering support to the Uddhav Thackeray-led party doesn't arise. If Shiv Sena approaches us, we will seek advice from our central leadership and their decision would be final," he said.
NCP chief Sharad Pawar also ruled out any alliance with the Sena.
He said, "We will not go with Shiv Sena. NCP-Congress and other allies will decide together the future course of action."
"People have asked us to sit in the opposition. The thought of trying to get into power doesn't even cross our minds," he said.
With the BJP falling short of the halfway-mark on its own, Shiv Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray sought to strike a hard bargain, saying it was time to implement the 'fifty-fifty' formula for power-sharing, which he said was decided with BJP president Amit Shah earlier.
"It is time to remind the BJP about the formula arrived at when BJP chief Amit Shah visited my home....we had decided on the 50:50 formula for the alliance," he said after the election results were declared on Thursday.
Thackeray will be meeting the newly-elected MLAs of his party in Mumbai on Saturday and may discuss the issue of formation of the next government in the meeting, Sena sources said.
Meanwhile, a day after Maharashtra assembly election results showed a dip in BJP's tally compared to 2014 polls, Shiv Sena MP Sanjay Raut posted a cartoon to take a dig at his party's senior alliance partner.
The cartoon, posted by Raut on his verified Twitter account, shows a tiger (Shiv Sena's party symbol) wearing a clock locket (NCP's party symbol) sniffing a lotus (BJP's party symbol).
While the post is captioned 'bura na maano Diwali hai' to denote it was made in jest, the underlying message echoes what former chief minister Prithviraj Chavan sought to convey about the Sena, NCP and Congress coming together to prevent BJP from retaining power in Maharashtra.
Chavan had on Thursday spoken of an 'interesting possibility', that of the Sena, NCP and Congress aligning to upset the BJP's applecart.
Chavan said the results have thrown up an 'interesting possibility', but stopped short of indicating if the Congress and NCP will align with the Sena -- which he termed as the 'lesser evil' (compared to BJP) -- to form the next government in Maharashtra.
The Sena mouthpiece Saamana on Friday had a headline on its front page, proclaiming that the Uddhav Thackeray-led party has the 'keys to power' in Maharashtra.
An editorial in the newspaper also took a dig at the BJP, saying there was no 'maha janadesh' and the outcome was in fact a rap on the knuckles for those high on 'arrogance of power'.
Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis had toured over 200 constituencies, out of the total 288, during his 'Maha Janadesh Yatra' (massive mandate march) ahead of the October 21 polling.
On the eve of results on October 24, Fadnavis had talked about the saffron alliance winning 200-plus seats.
The Sena, which also saw a drop in its 2014 tally, said the mandate has rejected the notion that elections can be swept by engineering defections and splitting opposition parties.