The wait for a new government in Maharashtra prolonged on Thursday, with the Bharatiya Janata Party not staking claim, while an aggressive Shiv Sena remained firm on rotation of the chief minister's post.
Sena president Uddhav Thackeray, who hasn't blinked in the protracted battle of nerves with the senior alliance partner, was quoted as saying that the Amit Shah-led party should approach him only if ready to give Sena the CM's post.
On Thursday, Thackeray chaired a meeting of Sena's new MLAs for over an hour, during which the legislators reiterated that the 'equal sharing of posts and responsibilities' formula agreed upon before the Lok Sabha polls should be implemented.
The Sena MLAs passed a resolution, authorising Uddhav Thackeray to take a 'final decision' on government formation in Maharashtra.
After the meet, held at Thackeray's Bandra residence 'Matoshree', the legislators went to Rangsharda Hotel, close to the party chief's home, where they were shifted amid the ongoing uncertainty over government formation and fear of switching sides.
"It is necessary for all the MLAs to be together in the prevailing situation. Whatever decision Uddhavi takes will be binding on all of us," Sena MLA Sunil Prabhu said.
"Threats and blackmailing won't work now," said Sena MP Sanjay Raut, who has been the public face of the party's new-found belligerence during the last fortnight.
"We also have options (to form government)," he said, but did not elaborate.
Results of the October 21 assembly poll were declared on October 24.
Maharashtra Advocate General Ashutosh Kumbhakoni met Governor Bhagat Singh Koshyari at Raj Bhavan amid talk of the latter stepping in to annoint a caretaker CM if nobody stakes claim to form the new government before the present assembly's term ends in two days.
In Nagpur, Union minister Nitin Gadkari said Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis should head the new government as he has been elected head of state BJP legislature party, and ruled out his assuming the state's top job.
He also said Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh chief Mohan Bhagwat should not be linked to the government formation moves in Maharashtra.
Senior leaders of Maharashtra BJP met Koshyari in Mumbai to discuss 'legal aspects' of the delay in formation of a government in the state.
Those who met Koshyari included minister and state BJP chief Chandrakant Patil and ministers Sudhir Mungantiwar and Girish Mahajan.
"We discussed the legal aspects of the current situation with the governor. We will hold talks with our leaders and decide next course of action," he said.
Anant Kalse, former principal secretary of the state legislature, said the onus is on Governor Koshyari to act if no party stakes claim to form the new government.
If no party comes forward, the governor can invite the single largest party to form the government, Kalse said.
"If that party shows its inability to form the new government, then the governor will invite the second largest party to form the government," Kalse said.
"The governor will have to carry out these modalities," he told a TV channel.
The decision to hold the first session of the new assembly is taken in the first cabinet meeting of the new government, he said. Holding the session is the cabinet's responsibility, he added.
"The assembly poll results have been notified by the Election Commission. The new Assembly will come into existence as per Constitutional provisions," he said.
"Till the new CM is sworn in, the session of the new assembly can't be convened," Kalse said.
After the new government proposes, the governor calls the session of the new assembly in which all the new MLAs are sworn in, he said.
"There is no provision of a caretaker government as per the Constitution but there have been such incidents even at the Centre," he said.
"The tenure of a caretaker government is a grey area but the new government will have to be formed soon," he said.
Former Maharashtra Advocate General Shrihari Aney said, it is a 'very long time' before one can think of imposing President's rule in the state.
"There are many options and actions to be taken before reaching such a decision," Aney said.
"There is no provision in law that the new government will have to be formed by November 9, after the tenure of the present assembly ends," Aney said.
The BJP and Shiv Sena are locked in a tussle over the issue of the chief minister's post, resulting in a stalemate in government formation despite results of the assembly polls giving the alliance a combined seat strength of 161, way past the 145 majority mark in the 288-member House.
In the polls, the BJP won 105 seats, Shiv Sena-56, Nationalist Congress Party-54 and the Congress won 44 seats.
The Congress on Thursday questioned the BJP-Shiv Sena alliance's "moral right" to form government in Maharashtra if the Sena apprehends poaching of its MLAs by its senior ally.
The Nationalist Congress Party claimed that MLAs were being approached with inducements for switching camps.