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Divided BJP taking its time to pick ally and CM in Maharashtra

October 23, 2014 18:24 IST

While the Bharatiya Janata Party is in a comfortable position to pick between the Shiv Sena and the NCP as its ally in Maharashtra, its leaders have not been able to choose unanimously. Prasanna D Zore/Rediff. com reports 

Minister of State (Independent Charge) for Coal, Power and New and Renewable Energy, Piyush Goyal gave a cryptic “only time will tell,” answer to who the Bharatiya Janata Party would likely partner with in forming the next government in Maharashtra.

The BJP has emerged as the single largest party in the Maharashtra Legislative Assembly with 123 seats out of the total of 288 and finds itself in a sweet spot with adequate time on its hands to form a stable government.

With its alliance partner-turned foe-turned would-be alliance partner, Shiv Sena softening its stand and Sharad Pawar’s Nationalist Congress Party extending it “unconditional, outside, support”, the BJP is in no hurry to form the government in the state. 

The ECI can issue a notification for the formation of the next government anytime between now and November 8, when the term of the current legislative assembly ends. This situation gives BJP ample time to not only iron out its alliance strategy but also choose a BJP leader unanimously to head the government.  

“A positive outcome will emerge soon,” Goyal said.

When asked about this peculiar advantageous position and who will the BJP extend a hand of friendship to, Goyal said, “only time will tell.” 

A clear situation is likely to emerge only after the Diwali break, he added.

The BJP’s Parliamentary Board meeting is likely to be held next week, Goyal said. The board, in consultation with Maharashtra BJP leaders, will take a final call on an alliance with either the Shiv Sena or NCP. 

“The NCP offered us support suo moto. We did not seek their support,” Goyal said when asked about the possibility of the BJP forming a minority government with Pawar’s NCP, whose top leaders like Ajit Pawar, Sunil Tatkare and Chhagan Bhujbal face corruption charges.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi during his campaign tour in Maharashtra had referred to the NCP as a “Naturally corrupt party” and targeted the uncle-nephew duo of Sharad Pawar and Ajit Pawar for enslaving the people of Baramati and Maharashtra during their rule since 1999 in Maharashtra.

While Goyal and some BJP leaders, who spoke on condition of anonymity, neither welcomed nor rejected NCP’s offer of outside support, the BJP seemed divided over the issue.

A top BJP source told that BJP accepting NCP’s outside support would be difficult to justify to the people of the state. The BJP had predominantly based its high octane election campaign by levelling charges of inefficiency, failure and corruption against the Congress-NCP rule of 15 years.

“Even our prime minister took on the Pawars in their stronghold of Baramati and called them corrupt leaders. That had clearly set the tone. I doubt if the party will go against this line and form a government with NCP’s support,” said this source.

According to this source, there is opposition to Shiv Sena’s participation in the state government as well. The BJP is wary of the unreasonable demands likely to be put forward by the Sena leadership.

“Didn’t they call our PM, Afzal Shah and national president Adil Shah?” he said referring to the attack launched by Shiv Sena mouthpiece Saamna against Narendra Modi and BJP president Amit Shah. 

This leader and Goyal rubbished media reports of a division in the BJP’s elected lawmakers. A section of BJP leaders from Vidarbha region reportedly met Union Transport and Shipping Minister Nitin Gadkari, while many others are backing state BJP president Devendra Fadnavis and Pankaja Palwe-Munde.

Pankaja is said to have referred to Gadkari and Fadnavis as “metro leaders” unlike her, who she claimed, was a mass leader.

“This is plain media speculation,” Goyal said. “There is no need to read much into these reports,” he added.

Prasanna D Zore/ in Mumbai