- Sena has refused to back down on its demand for a 50:50 arrangement
- Sanjay Raut didn't rule out possibility of Sena supporting Congress-NCP
- He also said the Shiv Sena won't settle for deputy chief ministership
In the middle of its tussle with the BJP over power-sharing in Maharashtra, the Shiv Sena on Monday cautioned its long-time ally that it must not be pushed into exploring alternatives and that "no one is a saint" in politics.
Sena leader Sanjay Raut, speaking to NDTV, did not outright rule out the possibility of his party taking the support of the Congress and the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) but insisted that the Sena believed in the sanctity of the alliance.
"Uddhav Thackeray (Sena Chief) has clearly said we will wait for the BJP. But don't compel us to look for other alternatives. We don't want to commit that sin," Mr Raut said on whether the Sena would consider a tie-up with the opposition Congress and Sharad Pawar's NCP if the BJP did not play ball.
"We can't deny the possibility (of taking Congress-NCP support). No one is a sadhu-sant (saint) in politics, though the Sena still believes in its principles."
The Shiv Sena has refused to back down on its demand for a 50:50 arrangement in Maharashtra, though the BJP has made it clear that it will not agree to rotational chief ministership. Many Sena MLAs want Uddhav Thackeray's son Aaditya Thackeray to be Chief Minister for two-and-a-half years. Aaditya, 29, is the first of the Thackeray clan to contest and win an election.
The two parties seemed to highlight their rift as they met with state Governor Bhagat Singh Koshyari separately. First Shiv Sena leader Diwakar Raote, then the BJP's Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis met with the Governor in what were officially described as "courtesy calls" for Diwali greetings.
Mr Raut said the BJP could not renege on its word. When it was pointed out that the 50:50 proposal came up only before the national election earlier this year, not last week's state polls, he replied that BJP leaders like Devendra Fadnavis and Chandrakant Patil had requested the Sena to set aside that formula as they were finding it difficult to accommodate their own and also defectors from the opposition who had crossed over before the polls.
The Shiv Sena leader said the party would not settle for deputy chief ministership.
If the BJP didn't agree? "There is still time. They don't have a majority and they are the biggest party. If they can do without the Sena, I welcome that and congratulate them," Mr Raut replied.
Soon after the election results on Thursday, which saw the BJP winning less seats than it expected - leaving it dependent on the Sena - Uddhav Thackeray reminded the BJP of the "50:50 formula" and said: "We contested less number of seats for the Lok Sabha and assembly elections. I cannot accommodate the BJP every time. We also need to grow our party. I want to remind the BJP of the formula which was worked out in the presence of (BJP president) Amit Shah."
The BJP won 105 seats in the 288-member Maharashtra assembly and the Shiv Sena ended up with 56. With the BJP's tally dipping from 122 in 2014, the Sena claims leverage. Together, the two have 161 seats, way past the half-way mark of 144.
The Sena has asked for an assurance from the BJP leadership in writing that there would be a rotational arrangement for chief ministership.