Congress leader Sanjay Nirupam has warned his party and the NCP against allying with the Shiv Sena to form the government in Maharashtra. Mr Nirupam, who called it a "disastrous move", was responding to party colleague Milind Deora, who took to Twitter on Sunday to suggest Maharashtra Governor Bhagat Singh Koshyari extend an invitation to the Congress-NCP alliance to form the government given the BJP and the Sena have been unable to agree a power-sharing deal.
Sanjay Nirupam, a former Mumbai Congress chief who was replaced by Milind Deora with only days to go before April's Lok Sabha polls, reminded the allies they simply do not have the numbers. The Congress and the NCP have 98 seats in a 288-member Assembly where the majority mark is 145. Any claim to form the government will require allying with the Sena, which won 56 seats.
"In the current political arithmetic in Maharashtra, it is just impossible for Congress-NCP to form any government. For that we need Shiv Sena. And we must not think of sharing power with Shiv Sena under any circumstances. That will be a disastrous move for the party," Mr Nirupam said on Sunday.
In the current political arithmetic in Maharashtra, its just impossible for Congress-NCP to form any govt. For that we need ShivSena. And we must not think of sharing power with ShivSena under any circumstances.— Sanjay Nirupam (@sanjaynirupam) November 10, 2019
That will be a disastrous move for the party.#MaharashtraCrisis
The starkly-worded warning echoes one he made earlier this month, when he cautioned the Congress against getting involved in the BJP-Sena dispute.
Despite Mr Nirupam's warnings, there are sections within Maharashtra Congress that are open to supporting the Sena in an attempt to stop the BJP from coming to power. Last week Hussain Dalwai, a Rajya Sabha MP, wrote to Sonia Gandhi and told her Muslims in the state preferred a Sena-led government to one led by the BJP.
For its part, the Sena has been sending feelers to the Congress and Sharad Pawar's Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) over an alternative political alignment. However, sources said Congress chief Sonia Gandhi ruled out supporting the Sena after meeting the NCP chief in Delhi this week.
The Sena-BJP stand-off over government formation entered its 17th day on Sunday, with Maharashtra BJP leaders meeting at Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis' home in Mumbai to discuss the Governor's invitation to the party to form the government. In a dramatic turn of events the BJP returned from that meeting to inform the Governor that they would not be staking claim to form the government.
The Sena and the BJP had fallen out over the former's demand that its ally honour a "50:50" deal allegedly agreed between Home Minister Amit Shah and Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray before the Lok Sabha election. The BJP has flatly denied there is a deal and has further said it is not willing to cede the Chief Minister's post, for a 2.5 year period, to its ally; this has also been demanded by the Sena.
The relationship between the allies has deteriorated rapidly since election results were declared on October 24, with Sena leader Sanjay Raut leading the charge. Ahead of the core group meeting Mr Raut taunted the BJP, saying he had confidence the BJP would do its best to buy MLAs ahead of a test of strength in the Assembly.
The Sena's 56 MLAs have been taken to a resort to guard them against poaching attempts.
With input from ANI