- Maharashtra Governor has now invited NCP, which has third-highest seats
- Earlier, he refused to give Shiv Sena three-day extension to stake claim
- The Congress is reportedly reluctant to extend its support to Shiv Sena
The Nationalist Congress Party is expected to hold a meeting at 11 today. Senior Congress leader Mallikarjun Kharge is expected to meet Sharad Pawar to discuss the issue of government formation.
A top Congress leader told NDTV off the record that there is a chance that President's Rule may be declared in the state as both NCP and the Congress are reluctant to form government. Without the Sena, the combined strength of the two parties are far from the majority mark in the state assembly. He, however, said the two parties don't want President's Rule and will continue to follow up on the process of government formation.
The Shiv Sena's Aaditya Thackeray, the son of Uddhav Thackeray, led a delegation on Monday evening to meet with the Governor. The Sena failed to produce letters of support, said the Governor's office, adding that its request for a three-day extension could not be granted. The NCP has now been invited for a shot at power.
The Congress did not rule out support to the Sena but said in a noncommittal statement: "The Congress president has spoken to Sharad Pawar. The party will have further discussions with NCP."
Sharad Pawar led the attempts to craft the unlikely coalition between parties that have been fierce enemies for years. Mr Pawar met with Uddhav Thackeray at a hotel in the afternoon before the Sena chief's seven-minute phone call with Sonia Gandhi.
Sonia Gandhi is personally opposed to supporting the Shiv Sena and made it clear in her last meeting with Sharad Pawar. Sources say she she called back Mr Thackeray as a matter of courtesy after several phone calls from him. The Congress president reportedly told Mr Thackeray she would get back to him after consulting her MLAs.
As the Congress dithered, Uddhav Thackeray had pushed back the Sena delegation's meeting with the Governor. Before reaching out to the NCP and the Congress, the Sena had met one of their key conditions for alliance talks by exiting the central government. Arvind Sawant quit as Union Minister for Heavy Industries and Public Enterprises.
Caretaker Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis of the BJP resigned on Friday. On Saturday, as the term of the Maharashtra legislative assembly ended without any resolution, Governor Koshyari invited the BJP to form government. But the BJP opted out of the race yesterday, accusing the Sena of "betraying the people's mandate".
The BJP and the Sena, long-term allies for around 30 years, won a majority together in last month's Maharashtra elections. The BJP won 105 seats and the Sena 56, which placed them comfortably ahead of the majority mark of 145 in the 288-member assembly.
However, the Sena demanded a guarantee, in writing, that it would have the chief minister's post for half the term and an equal share in ministries, in what it called a "50:50" deal discussed with BJP chief Amit Shah. As Devendra Fadnavis denied any such deal, the Sena's attacks on the BJP became more and more trenchant.