As Maharashtra's ruling coalition wobbled after a revolt by 22 MLAs, NCP leader Sharad Pawar said today, "We will find a way out of this situation". The former Union Minister said he would meet with Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray tonight.
"We are fully confident that Uddhav Thackeray will resolve this," the NCP veteran told reporters, emphasizing that he considered the crisis an "internal matter of the Shiv Sena", which had nothing to do with other coalition partners at this point.
He also ruled out any tie-up with the opposition BJP. "Ask sensible questions," he said to reporters.
The Uddhav Thackeray-led Maharashtra coalition went into crisis mode after minister and Shiv Sena leader Eknath Shinde and 21 more MLAs moved to a hotel in Surat in BJP-ruled Gujarat. The MLAs went incommunicado, though the Sena claimed it had established contact with Mr Shinde.
The Sena sacked Mr Shinde from a top party post, signaling that the party may not be inclined to negotiate with the rebel.
Reports suggested that Eknath Shinde, who has been sulking for a while and had complained of being sidelined, wanted a big post in the government, possibly that of Chief Minister or Deputy Chief Minister.
"Eknath Shinde has never conveyed to us that he wants to be Chief Minister. The Chief Minister's post belongs to the Shiv Sena. The deputy Chief Minister's post is that of NCP. This is an internal issue of Shiv Sena, whatever they decide we are with them," said Sharad Pawar, reacting to those reports.
"We don't think there is any need of changes to the government," he added.
His words indicated that Uddhav Thackeray's Shiv Sena may find it difficult to offer the post of Deputy Chief Minister to placate the sulking Eknath Shinde.
Mr Pawar said the Shiv Sena had told him it would clarify on the situation after an "in-depth study" in the afternoon.
"When we know the ground reality then we will work on our strategy," he said.
Mr Pawar, the man who crafted the ruling coalition by bringing together ideologically opposed parties, is widely seen as key to the coalition's stability as the Shiv Sena scrambles for numbers.
Mr Pawar's party has 53 MLAs who can be crucial even for the opposition BJP, in any attempt to topple the government.
There are 285 MLAs in the Maharashtra assembly, with the majority mark at 143.
The Shiv Sena has 56 MLAs, the NCP 50 and the Congress, 44.
If 22 MLAs resign, the assembly strength will come down to 263 and the majority mark will come down to 132. The ruling coalition's total will drop to 128.
The BJP claims it has 135 MLAs.