- The BJP has claimed the support of 182 MLAs
- An editorial in Saamana alleged that MLAs were being offered bags of cash
- Sena has moved all its MLAs and some independents to hotel in Bandra
The BJP met with the Maharashtra Governor on Thursday while its ally Shiv Sena moved its flock to a hotel in Mumbai, each accusing the other of delay while hurtling towards the deadline for government formation in the state.
Rattled by reports that the BJP has claimed the support of 182 MLAs, the Shiv Sena on Thursday took urgent measures to sequester its MLAs. An editorial in Saamana alleged that MLAs were being offered "bags of cash".
After a meeting called by Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray at his home "Matoshree", the party moved all its MLAs - and some independents who supporting it - to hotel Rangsharda in Bandra.
The MLAs have been put up for two days at the hotel that is a couple of km from Matoshree and not far from either the Shiv Sena's headquarters.
As the Sena guarded its MLAs, a group of BJP leaders met with Governor Bhagat Singh Koshyari.
"The Mahayuti (BJP-Sena alliance) has won a clear majority and based on that, a government should have been formed. We discussed with the Governor the implications and legal options in the circumsances," said Maharashtra BJP chief Chandrakant Patil, adding that the party leadership would decide on the road ahead.
The BJP has refused to concede the Sena's demand for a time-share on chief ministership in a "50:50 deal" Uddhav Thackeray says was discussed with BJP president Amit Shah.
At Thursday's meeting, Uddhav Thackeray reportedly asked MLAs why he would "waste 15 days" if he wanted to accept anything less than the chief minister's post.
"The BJP met the governor but did not stake claim. Why didn't it go with a list of MLAs supporting it? It shows that BJP is unable to raise a majority on its own. Why don't they give up this lust for power and tell us they cannot form government," Sena MP Sanjay Raut said.
The BJP won 105 MLAs in the 288-member assembly and Sena, 56. Together they are well past the majority mark of 145 but the Sena wants equal partnership.
The BJP has, however, repeatedly said Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis will continue for a second, full term. ""Devendra Fadnavis is the choice and he should lead the government. The BJP won 105 seats so the Chief Minister should be from the BJP," said Union Minister Nitin Gadkari, who is seen either in the role of a trouble-shooter or a possible candidate for chief minister that is more acceptable to the Sena. The Sena is deeply upset with Mr Fadnavis for rejecting their claim to equal power-share and rotational chief ministership.
The Sena also reacted sharply to the BJP's talk on "legal" implications of the standoff.
"The constitution is not BJP's preserve. We will have a Sena CM within the constitution. The BJP says the chief minister will be theirs...I admire their confidence," Mr Raut sneered.
Earlier, Mr Raut had denied any move to shift the Sena MLAs, saying: "No one can dare to come near Shiv Sena MLAs. Our MLAs are firm in their resolve and committed to the party."
Sena MLA Sunil Prabhu said: "It is necessary for all the MLAs to be together in the prevailing situation. Whatever decision Uddhavji takes will be binding on all of us."
Maharashtra will go into President's Rule if no government is in place by tomorrow. The state assembly's term ends on Saturday.
Mr Raut claims the support of over 170 MLAs but has not specified how. The Sena's perceived attempts to get the support of the rival Nationalist Congress Party (NCP)-Congress alliance didn't produce results with Congress President Sonia Gandhi's refusal to consider any truck with the long-term BJP ally.