A meeting between Maharashtra Governor Bhagat Singh Koshyari and a delegation of Shiv Sena-Congress-NCP MLAs scheduled this evening was postponed, Sena leader Eknath Shinde confirmed. The meeting was postponed because members of the delegation were in their respective constituencies carrying out drought inspection visits and filing election expenditure documents. Sources said the MLAs had asked for free time on Friday but were released only today. The meeting is expected to be rescheduled but there is no word, as yet, on a new date.
Officially the delegation was to discuss issues of administration relating to farmers' distress and unemployment levels. However, many viewed the meet as a show of strength by the three parties who are racing against time to cobble together an unlikely alliance and form the government in the state.
Maharashtra has been under President's Rule since Tuesday after October's election delivered a fractured mandate and power-sharing talks between the BJP and the Sena broke down. Snubbed by its long-time ally, the Sena approached the opposition - the Congress and the NCP - to propose an alliance to keep the BJP from power.
With that alliance in mind, Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray is expected to meet NCP leader Sharad Pawar today at an undisclosed location in Mumbai. Mr Pawar is then expected in Delhi on Sunday to meet interim Congress President Sonia Gandhi.
On Friday, Mr Pawar expressed confidence that the alliance would prove its majority and would rule Maharashtra for the full term of five years. The three parties are believed to be close to agreeing a Common Minimum Programme that will govern their combined administration, with the focus likely on joblessness and helping struggling farmers.
The Sena has been similarly confident; senior leader Sanjay Raut, who has led the charge against erstwhile ally BJP, said Friday that his party would rule the state for the next "25 years".
Meanwhile, in a scathing editorial published in its party mouthpiece, Saamana, the Shiv Sena attacked the BJP, accusing its former ally of "horse-trading under the guise of President's Rule" to augment its strength in the house and make a late bid for power.
The editorial criticised the BJP for asserting that it would form the government in the state, despite turning down an invitation from the Governor because it felt it lacked a majority.
"Will the majority they did not have before emerge from the majority of President's Rule?" the Sena publication asked.
The BJP won 105 seats in October's elections to emerge as the single-largest party. The Sena, with whom it contested the polls, won 56. Had the Sena-BJP alliance survived post-poll power-sharing talks, forming the government would have been a formality.
However, negotiations broke down over the BJP refusing to a "50:50" deal the Sena claims had been agreed with Amit Shah, forcing the Sena to approach the Congress and the NCP, which won 44 and 54 seats respectively, to form a surprise coalition.