India’s governing Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and its long-time regional ally Shiv Sena appeared set to part ways over the stalemate in government formation in the western state of Maharashtra despite a clear mandate their alliance got in the assembly elections held more than two weeks ago.
Hours before the deadline for government formation ended on Friday, BJP leader and incumbent chief minister, Devendra Fadnavis, above, submitted his resignation to the state governor, Bhagat Singh Koshyari, who asked him to continue as acting chief minister until a solution is found to break the political impasse.
Fadnavis, who was stoically enduring the accusations and threats issued by Shiv Sena over the past two weeks, finally broke the silence at a press conference in the evening.
In a scathing attack, he said Shiv Sena leaders were lying on the so-called “promises” allegedly made by BJP on key cabinet posts in the government.
Home Minister Amit Shah, who met him at Shiv Sena leader Uddhav Thackeray’s home before elections, never offered Sena a 50:50 seat-sharing deal in cabinet or chief ministership to Uddhav’s son, Aditya Thackeray, on a rotational basis.
The two parties fought the elections together and BJP won the maximum seats although it fell short of the majority to independently form a government. Instead of helping BJP in government formation, Sena is creating hurdles by asking for the moon.
Farmers in the state are suffering after a severe drought and people working in others sectors are losing jobs because of abysmal fall in production and closure of hundreds of companies. BJP and Sena have a responsibility to help them by immediately forming a government.
Instead of that, Sena is trying to drive a hard bargain and even meeting leaders of Congress and Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) they fought against in the recent elections.
While Uddhav’s aides met their political rivals seeking “other options” for government formation, the Shiv Sena chief did not respond to any of his calls, Fadnavis said.
BJP has no plans to poach lawmakers from Shiv Sena or Congress. If Sena has any proof on this, it should produce it. Such unfounded allegations are hurting BJP, Fadnavis said.
BJP never made any personal attacks on Shiv Sena’s founder Bal Thackeray, his son Uddhav or grandson Aditya. Sena, on the other hand, had been targeting Prime Minister Narendra Modi through media, he alleged.
If Sena takes such a negative stance, why BJP should continue to have an alliance with it, he asked.
As acting chief minister, Fadnavis vowed to help farmers and jobless workers.
Thanking voters for supporting his party, he said a BJP-led government will come to power in Maharashtra shortly.
An hour after Fadnavis spoke to media, Uddhav said if BJP has options to form a government, it is free to ahead. If it fails to do, Shiv Sena will consider other options.
Uddhav lashed out at Fadnavis for calling him a liar. In fact, Fadnavis was lying on the promises Shah made to Shiv Sena when the home minister met them together before elections, he said.
Thackerays are not liars. Fadnavis must apologise or Shiv Sena will withdraw the support of its elected lawmakers, he said.
Maharashtra does not trust Shah and his company. BJP’s lies are not accepted by people of the state. Maharashtra deserves a chief minister who speaks the truth.
Uddhav said he had promised his father that the next chief minister will be from Sena. He tied up with BJP in the recent polls to fulfil that promise.
When Shah visited his home before elections, he had clearly told him about the chief minister’s post on a rotational basis. Maybe, Shah did not know the meaning of the 50:50 seat-sharing deal they discussed, Uddhav said.
He denied Fadnavis’ allegation of targeting Modi and asked him to prove it.
He said Modi regarded him as a brother and it is up to the BJP to keep their alliance with Sena afloat.
Uddhav’s blistering attack on the BJP made one feel that he was preparing the ground for a messy break-up with the saffron party.