Mumbai, Nov 13 (IANS) A day after Maharashtra went under President’s Rule, the state is witnessing a series of hectic formal/informal meetings and discussions at various levels among the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP), Shiv Sena and Congress in a bid to form the government.
The government formation attempts hinge on issues such as the post of Chief Minister, Deputy Chief Minister, the distribution of cabinet portfolios among the three prospective allies, a Common Minimum Programme (CMP) agreeable to all, and despite differing ideologies, giving the state a stable and sustainable government for the next five years, said a Sena leader.
Setting the ball rolling late on Tuesday night, Sena President Uddhav Thackeray called on Congress interim President Sonia Gandhi — for the second time in two days — and also met senior Congress leader Ahmed Patel.
NCP President Sharad Pawar held meetings with his top leaders and legislators on Wednesday where he allayed the apprehensions of the newly-elected MLAs, a party official said.
Pawar assured that President’s Rule would not hamper the government formation efforts, the state would not plunge into mid-term elections and that a new government would be in place soon.
In the afternoon, senior Congress leaders, including state chief Balasaheb Thorat, former Chief Minister Ashok Chavan and others, met Uddhav Thackeray, who later told mediapersons that “the discussions with the Congress-NCP are proceeding in the right direction”, but declined to elaborate.
In the evening, Congress leaders assembled again at former Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan’s home while NCP leaders met at Pawar’s residence, to prepare for a scheduled meeting of the two parties later.
Responding to a media query, Prithviraj Chavan categorically denied that there was any reluctance from any quarters to the name of Uddhav Thackeray as the probable Sena Chief Minister.
It may be recalled that Sena’s long alliance with the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) collapsed on the issue of sharing the Chief Minister’s post, and the Congress-NCP do not want a repeat situation now.
The two parties have also set up separate five-member committees to draft a CMP for discussions with the approval of the Sena to pave the way for the swearing-in at the earliest date.
The CMP will be born out of the existing manifestos of the three parties prepared for the October Assembly elections from which they would sift out the agreeable points and hammer out the contentious issues after discussions.
The agreeable points would comprise the issues of the farmers, the commoners, downtrodden and marginalised sections of society, economic issues like unemployment, the problems of recurring droughts/floods in different parts of the state, etc.
A senior NCP leader said these detailed exercises were underway “to ensure a proper balance of power among the three potential allies and prevent any kind of a crisis midway” during the next government’s five-year tenure.
Among the options being discussed for the Chief Minister’s post were Sena-NCP sharing it for 30 months each with the Congress accepting the Deputy Chief Minister’s post for the full 60 months, and all sharing the Chief Minister and Deputy Chief Minister’s posts for 20 months each, which the Sena has apparently rejected.
“The discussions are now more frank and relaxed as the Sena has expressed its commitment by not meeting Hindutva leader Sambhaji Bhide Guruji and by withdrawing its minister Arvind Sawant from the Union cabinet. This has boosted the confidence levels among the Congress-NCP,” said a Congress leader.
Though no party is willing to commit a time-frame for the government formation, all indicate that it would be “at the earliest possible opportunity” as soon as the aforementioned issues are agreed upon by the three parties in the proposed ‘MahaShivAghadi’.