'The intention is to let the governor know that we have the majority and the letters of support is the proof'
In a major step to pre-empt the Centre's next steps that could involve imposition of President's rule again or dissolution of the Maharashtra legislative assembly, in case the Devendra Fadnavis government fails to prove its majority on the floor of the House, a delegation of the Congress, Shiv Sena and Nationalist Congress Party has submitted letters of support of 160 MLAs to the governor's office at Raj Bhavan, Mumbai.
"The 160 letters of support that have the signatures of all the MLAs have been submitted to the undersecretary to the governor as he was not available," Congress leader Ashok Chavan, who was part of the delegation, told Rediff.com.
"We have submitted the letters of support to the governor's office," he said even as he deflected the question if these letters were an effort to pre-empt the Centre's action leading to the dissolution of the House.
"We are not aware about that (Centre's intention) but we have submitted the letters of 160 MLAs along with their signatures and their affidavits have also been sent to the honourable Supreme Court," Chavan said soon after submitting the letters.
Apart from the MLAs belonging to the three major parties that have come together to form the government in Maharashtra, these letters also belong to MLAs of smaller parties like the Samajwadi Party and Raju Shetti's Swabhimani Shetkari Sanghatna, Chavan said.
When asked if the delegation will try and meet the governor in person and submit these letters to him again, Chavan said, "That could happen, but we have submitted the letters for now. The intention is to let the governor know that we have the majority and the letters of support is the proof."
Sticking to his party's official stand that the entire tenure of chief ministership will rest with the Shiv Sena, senior NCP leader Nawab Malik denied reports that the Sena has proposed to offer chief ministership to Ajit Pawar for two-and-a-half years in case he returns to the NCP and clears the roadblocks for government formation.
"There is no such proposal," Malik said categorically even as his senior party colleagues Chhagan Bhujbal and Jayant Patil, the newly-elected leader of the NCP's legislature party, were in the midst of a meeting with Ajit Pawar at his home in Mumbai.
This meeting was being held just 15 hours after a delegation of NCP leaders, that included Dilip Walse-Patil, Hasan Mushrif and Jayant Patil, failed to persuade Ajit Pawar to come back to the NCP.
Ajit Pawar, on his part, has been tweeting relentlessly since Sunday to indicate that he will be with the BJP.
He even changed his Twitter bio to 'Deputy Chief Minister, Maharashtra' even while maintaining that he is still a member of the NCP.
"The efforts are still on," Malik said when asked if Ajit Pawar has expressed his willingness to come back to the NCP.
Meanwhile, speaking to the media in Karad, NCP President Sharad Pawar was at his tactful best when asked if the party was suspending Ajit Pawar for his act of rebellion.
'One person cannot take this decision. All the senior party leaders and members of our disciplinary committee will take that decision,' Pawar said.
Malik said the NCP's doors are still open for Ajit Pawar if he admits he made a mistake by going with the BJP and comes back to the party.
"Yes, he has made a mistake and he must make amends," Malik said.
Prasanna D Zore covers both national and Maharashtra politics. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org