New Delhi: Congress interim president Sonia Gandhi is “not too keen” on allying with the Shiv Sena in Maharashtra and has asked senior party leaders in the state and NCP to work out a “formula” in the state, ThePrint has learnt.
Senior Maharashtra Congress leaders involved in the process told ThePrint Gandhi still remains undecided on the possible tie-up with Sena and hasn’t signalled either a definitive ‘no’ or ‘yes’ to allying with the ideological opponent.
On Monday, Gandhi met NCP chief Sharad Pawar, who had come to Delhi to convince her to keep the BJP out of power, said a senior Maharashtra Congress leader.
“Her gut feeling is that Congress shouldn’t ally with Shiv Sena,” said the leader, who did not wish to be named. He said Gandhi has asked the parties to “work out a formula” and come back to her with a solution.
“But there is a strong push from Congress leaders in Maharashtra to convince her that we need to choose the lesser of the two evils and keep the BJP out of power,” the leader added.
Speaking to reporters in New Delhi Monday about his meeting with Sonia Gandhi, Sharad Pawar said the two party chiefs had no specific conversation regarding government formation in Maharashtra.
“NCP has the mandate to sit in the opposition, but you cannot speak about the future,” he said, keeping the option of a possible alliance with Shiv Sena open.
However, the senior Maharashtra Congress leader quoted above told ThePrint, “Whatever Pawar said is for public consumption… But no action can be taken until there is a concrete proposal from the Sena.”
State party leaders expect a decision from the Congress high command before the assembly deadline of 8 November, after which either a minority government could be formed or President’s rule could be imposed in the state.
Deadlock in Maharashtra
The bitter power struggle between the Shiv Sena and BJP in Maharashtra erupted over the latter’s refusal to give Sena the chief minister’s post for half the term — something Uddhav Thackeray’s party claims was promised by BJP during alliance talks.
With 105 seats, the BJP emerged as the single largest party in the 288-member assembly, while Shiv Sena secured 56.
But the deadlock between the partners has led to the possibility of a three-way alliance between NCP, Sena and the Congress.
“We are in touch with people in both Shiv Sena and the NCP,” said the Maharashtra Congress leader quoted above.
Earlier, another Maharashtra Congress leader privy to the discussions had told ThePrint that Sonia Gandhi had asked the leaders to wait and assess the situation.
“We don’t want to be a pawn in Shiv Sena’s game,” he had told ThePrint. “They have made no clear proposal, aisa thodi hona chahiye ki begaane ki shaadi mein Abdullah deewana ho (we shouldn’t get too involved without any reason),” he added.
The Shiv Sena is the BJP’s oldest ally but their relationship has strained over recent years.