- "President's rule threat an insult to Maharashtra":Sena attacks ally BJP
- President's rule likely if no state government by November 7: BJP leader
- Sena has been demanding a "50:50" deal for power sharing in Maharashtra
Amid a power tussle with the BJP over government formation in Maharashtra, the Shiv Sena on Saturday sharpened attack on its ally saying that the "President's rule threat" by BJP minister Sudhir Mungantiwar is an "insult" to the state and people's mandate as it questioned its coalition partner: "Is President in your pocket?"
On Friday, Finance Minister and BJP leader Sudhir Mungantiwar had said that Maharashtra "may head for President's rule if the new government in the state is not in place by November 7". He said the main hurdle in government formation in the state was the Sena's demand for Chief Minister's post for 2.5 years.
Reacting to the comments, Sena leader Sanjay Raut on Saturday warned its ally that the party will soon drop its "wait and watch mode". "In India, President protects the constitution," he said. "Has this threat been given after the party exhausted all its means to claim power? Sena will soon drop its wait and watch mode in Maharashtra," Mr Raut told reporters.
Mr Raut said his party will stick to "coalition dharma" till the end. "The Sena contested the assembly elections in an alliance and we would adhere to the coalition dharma till the last moment," he was quoted as saying by news agency PTI.
Upset with the BJP for not accepting its demand for rotational chief ministership and a "50:50" deal for power sharing, the party also launched a scathing attack in an editorial in its mouthpiece "Saamana". "Mungantiwar's statements are a proof of the toxicity brewing with the party (BJP) and in his mind," the article titled "Is President In Your Pocket? Insult To Maharashtra" read.
"Is the President under your (BJP's) control or President's stamp is at BJP's office which will be used if party is not able to form government in the state and President's rule can be imposed in Maharashtra?" the article further read.
The BJP won 105 of the state's 288 seats and the Sena finished with 56 in the state election last week. Together, they are comfortably past the 145-majority mark. However, Shiv Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray brought up the "50:50 arrangement" last week after results were announced, which he said, was discussed before the national elections earlier this year. Sharad Pawar's NCP placed third in the Maharashtra election with 54 seats, just two behind the Shiv Sena. The Congress won 44.
Mr Raut on Saturday hinted the talks between Sena and the BJP "never began" after election results. "Considering the prevailing political situation in the state, every one (every political party) is talking to each other except the Sena and the BJP. The Sena did not stop talks of government formation... the talks never began," he said.
The tenure of the existing Legislative Assembly in Maharashtra ends on November 8. In his remarks on Friday, Mr Mungatiwar said: "A new government will have to be in place within the stipulated time, or else the President will have to intervene".
In its editorial, Sena said the BJP leader's comments are an "insult to the state". "The threat by Sudhir Mungantiwar is unconstitutional... It is an insult to Maharashtra and people's mandate," the party said in its editorial. Taking a potshot at its ally, the party said that "Maharashtra politics has become an interesting procession" as it called Mr Mungatiwar "a firefly that doesn't light up".
"The question is why is the government not being formed in Maharashtra.... Who will give the answer? Should people of Maharashtra be held responsible for the announcement of a BJP leader becoming chief minister again and no claims to form government? The warning to impose President's rule is like Mughals threatening... ," the Sena further added in its editorial.
Maharashtra does not care about these threats, the party stressed in its mouthpiece, concluding the article saying: "The President is the supreme institution of the Constitution... not an individual but representative of the entire country. The country is not in anyone's pocket".
Responding to Sena's sharp reactions, Mr Mungantiwar on Saturday said his "President's rule" remark was "not a threat". "In the last five years, we ran the government without a restraint. But some people have a habit of making a mole out of a mountain. My remark yesterday was not a threat," he told reporters this morning.
(With inputs from PTI)