Congress and NCP leaders held a meeting in the evening. (PTI)
- BJP, Shiv Sena and NCP couldn't produce enough numbers to stake claim
- Maharashtra Governor has refused to give the Shiv Sena more time
- No government in Maharashtra even 20 days after election results
Maharashtra was placed under President's Rule on Tuesday after a report from Governor Bhagat Singh Koshyari to the centre that none of the three parties he had invited since Saturday - BJP, Shiv Sena and Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) - could produce enough numbers to stake claim to power even 20 days after the October 24 state election results. The Governor sent the report after the NCP spoke to him at 11 am on Tuesday, hours before its 8.30 pm deadline, and asked for more time. Opposition parties criticized the move, accusing the governor of doing the BJP's bidding without exhausting all his constitutional options. President's Rule didn't stop allies Congress and NCP from holding discussions on whether to support the Shiv Sena in forming government.
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"Yesterday(Monday), Shiv Sena formally asked for support for the first time. First we allies will discuss amongst ourselves, then have discussions with the Shiv Sena," said Congress leader Ahmed Patel, addressing the media jointly with NCP chief Sharad Pawar. "Unless we discuss how the government can run smoothly, it won't be easy to form an alliance," said Sharad Pawar.
The Shiv Sena's attempts to form a government with sworn rivals NCP and Congress reached a dead-end on Monday despite a call from the party's president Sonia Gandhi giving hope to Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray. The Congress took a step back reportedly after a call between Sonia Gandhi and Sharad Pawar.
The Congress says it was Sharad Pawar who wanted more time. Sources say Mr Pawar told Sonia Gandhi on Monday in a phone call that there was a need to discuss the contours of support to the Sena. "NCP is just two seats short of Sena," Mr Pawar reportedly pointed out, indicating a rethink on whether the Sena should have a full term for its chief minister.
At the last minute, when the Shiv Sena was to meet the Governor with letters of support, the Congress said it had taken no decision and would hold discussions with Sharad Pawar. "From 10 am to 7:30 pm on Monday, our leaders including Sharad Pawar, Praful Patel were waiting for (Congress's) letter," said NCP's Ajit Pawar, the NCP chief's nephew.
The Shiv Sena petitioned the Supreme Court complaining that the Governor had refused to grant it extra-time even though the BJP was given two days to prove its numbers. Senior lawyer Kapil Sibal, a Congress leader, is representing the Sena, say sources. At a news briefing, Mr Thackeray said the Shiv Sena, NCP and Congress may have different ideologies but they "will find a way to work together".
Sonia Gandhi sent her top party leaders to Mumbai for discussions on government formation after speaking to Sharad Pawar on the phone again on Tuesday morning. The Congress and NCP leaders held a meeting in the evening, saying they would continue their efforts to form a government and approach the Governor as soon as there was a pact.
Though Congress MLAs in Maharashtra favour forming a government with the Sena, the party leadership, especially Sonia Gandhi, is extremely wary of a tie-up with an ideologically different party, one that it directly fought in Mumbai and many other places in Maharashtra in the polls. The Congress is also concerned that the Sena's divorce with the BJP, its partner of nearly 30 years, may not be permanent.
The Shiv Sena on Monday pulled out its only minister in Prime Minister Narendra Modi's government at the centre to signal its exit from the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA). The Sena's separation from the BJP was the NCP's prerequisite for talks between the Maharashtra rivals for a non-BJP alliance.
The BJP opted out of the race for power on Sunday, accusing the Sena of "betraying the people's mandate". The BJP won 105 seats in the Maharashtra polls and the Sena 56, which placed them comfortably ahead of the majority mark of 145 in the 288-member assembly. But the allies fell out over the Sena's demand for rotational chief ministership in a "50:50" deal it said was discussed with BJP chief Amit Shah.
With the NCP's 54 seats and the Congress's 44, the Sena could have 154 MLAs on its side. Congress MLAs remain at a resort in Rajasthan's Jaipur as the leadership wants to avoid a repeat of Goa, where its members crossed over to the BJP.