The Chief Minister of Maharashtra will be from the Shiv Sena, its leader Sanjay Raut asserted today in proof that the ruling BJP and its long-time ally are no closer to an understanding that will unlock the process of government formation nearly two weeks after the election.
"The Chief Minister will be from Shiv Sena only. The face and politics of Maharashtra is changing, you will see. What you call hungama (commotion) is not hungama but the fight for justice and rights... victory will be ours," Sanjay Raut, a Rajya Sabha MP of the Sena, told news agency ANI.
He added that the decision on Maharashtra will be taken in Maharashtra, a reference to meetings in Delhi that drew much attention on Monday - one between Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis of the BJP and his party chief Amit Shah and the other between Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) chief Sharad Pawar and Congress president Sonia Gandhi.
The term of the Maharashtra assembly ends on Saturday and a government has to be in place by then.
Pre-poll allies BJP and Shiv Sena won a clear majority together, with 161 seats in the 288-member assembly, but are feuding over how to share power. The Sena is insisting on a "50:50" deal in which a chief minister from each party will have half the five-year term.
The Sena's attempt to leverage support from other sources - like independents, the NCP and Congress - has faltered with Congress President Sonia Gandhi reportedly turning down any arrangement with the Sena.
The BJP, which won 105 seats in the 288-member Maharashtra assembly, says it has the support of 115 MLAs. The Shiv Sena won 56 but says it has the support of 63 along with independents.
The opposition NCP, Congress and others have 102 seats.
If there is no compromise before the term of the assembly expires, the state may head towards President's Rule.
In an unforeseen turn of events, senior BJP leader from Maharashtra, Union Minister Nitin Gadkari, may emerge as peacemaker between the Shiv Sena and the BJP.
Yesterday, farmers' rights activist-turned-Shiv Sena leader Kishore Tiwari had urged the RSS or the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh - the BJP's ideological mentor - to intervene "in the interest of Hindutva" and even suggested Nitin Gadkari should step in for a resolution.
"We have demanded that the Bharatiya Janata Party should deploy its senior leader and Minister Nitin Gadkari for the negotiations with Sena. We are confident that he will not just honour 'alliance dharma' but resolve matter in a couple of hours with dialogue," Kishore Tiwari told NDTV on the phone.
Devendra Fadnavis, eyeing a second full term, returned to Mumbai last night after his meeting with BJP President and Union Home Minister Amit Shah. Mr Fadnavis also met with Nitin Gadkari, and the Maharashtra situation was reportedly discussed in detail.
While reiterating the demand for the chief minister's post this morning, Sanjay Raut told reporters, "There will be a swearing-in soon as this is a right of the people. Swearing-in is not anyone's monopoly."
The BJP does have the option of staking claim as the single largest party. The Shiv Sena says it is waiting for the BJP to offer a formula for a coalition government.
On the other hand, BJP sources say back-channel talks have been initiated but there has been no response yet.