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Shiv Sena-BJP alliance hopes linger, but CM Fadnavis keeps Plan B ready

Maharashtra’s new chief minister, Devendra Fadnavis, has been telling friends he has still not shifted his belongings to his official residence because he may have to go back to living in Mumbai’s MLA hostel any day.

Maharashtra CM Devendra Fadnavis greets PM Narendra Modi after the swearing-in ceremony at Wankhede Stadium in Mumbai. (Anshuman Poyrekar/HT photo)

Maharashtra CM Devendra Fadnavis greets PM Narendra Modi after the swearing-in ceremony at Wankhede Stadium in Mumbai. (Anshuman Poyrekar/HT photo)

But if his body language is anything to go by, Fadnavis is more than confident of winning the majority on the floor of the assembly on Wednesday.

Sources close to Fadnavis said the CM was sitting pretty with 138 MLAs — only seven short of a majority in the 288-member house — having pledged their support to his government, in case the Shiv Sena did not join.

In all, 121 MLAs from the BJP, one from the BJP’s ally Rashtriya Samaj Paksha, seven independents, three from the Bahujan Vikas Aghadi, three from the Peasants and Workers’ Party and three from other small parties will bolster the ruling party during the floor test, insiders said.

Although the BJP won 122 seats in the elections, it lost one after Mukhed MLA Govind Rathod died of a heart attack on October 26.

“Some may vote in favour and others may abstain or stay neutral,” said a senior BJP leader, who has been talking to these MLAs. He said some independents were offered ministerial berths in exchange for their support.

The BJP, however, might not need their support if the Nationalist Congress Party (41 MLAs) supports it from outside or the Sena, which has 63 legislators, joins the government. However, it will have to keep its options open in future because the NCP has decided to extend issue-based support and might pull the plug if something goes wrong.

Even the Sena can find a reason to call it quits, said a BJP leader. Fadnavis refused to comment on the possibilities.

“Everything will fall into place. Please wait till the trust vote,” he told HT.

Revenue Minister Eknath Khadse, however, expressed optimism that the BJP government would not only win the floor test but also complete its full five-year term. “It is the Shiv Sena’s decision… we are not worried as many of their legislators have already assured us of support. There are sufficient MLAs (legislators) to help us secure a majority.”

In response to the Sena’s demand on the NCP, the BJP maintained it had not asked the NCP for support and blamed the Sena for approaching NCP leaders in a bid to defeat the BJP during the trust vote.

The Sena has warned the BJP that it will sit in the Opposition if the latter accepts support from the Sharad Pawar-led party.

BJP, Sena spar over speaker’s post

Meanwhile, ahead of the trust vote in the assembly, there is no sign of truce between the Sena and the BJP, which parted ways ahead of the state polls after 25 years of bonhomie.

The Sena disrupted proceedings in the House on Tuesday and demanded that the notification of schedule for the speaker’s election be cancelled as all members had not taken oath.

As soon as the House assembled for the second day of the three-day special session to enable the members to take oath, Sena leader Eknath Shinde, on a point of order, demanded that the cancellation of the notification.

“The time for filing of nomination is till 12 noon. As many as 106 members are yet to take oath, they cannot participate in the process of election including proposing, seconding the name of the candidate or even if they want to contest the election, till they take oath as members,” Shinde said.

The time for filing of nomination for the post of speaker was later extended till 3pm.

Protem speaker Jeeva Pandu Gavit said there was no need for stopping the proceedings. However, Sena members were unrelenting. They raised slogans in favour of their demand that the proceedings cannot be continued till a ruling was given.

Intervening, chief minister Fadnavis said it would be unfair to stop the oath-taking ceremony following which Sena members started sloganeering.

Gavit read out a letter from Sena president Uddhav Thackeray, requesting that any slogans against united Maharashtra after the oath-taking should be deleted from proceedings. He was referring to some members saying ‘Jai Vidarbha’ after taking oath.

BJP member Ashish Deshmukh, son of Congress leader Ranjit Deshmukh, after taking oath had said “Jai Vidarbha”.1111mumbai1

Hopes of patch-up remain

The Sena may have taken its seats in the Opposition in the new session that began on Monday but party sources said it was still hoping for a last-minute turnaround before the trust vote.

A Shiv Sena MLA told Hindustan Times not to conclude anything before the floor test. “Things might move 180 degrees.This is Thackeray style,” he said.

The Sena nominated Eknath Shinde for leader of the Opposition post even as it continued talks with the BJP, with party chief Uddhav justifying the move as an attempt to outmanoeuvre the Congress.

“The talks (with BJP) are going on and on and what if it doesn’t work? Then we won’t get either (neither power nor post of opposition leader),” Thackeray said at a party meet on Monday evening.

The Sena expects the BJP to concede its demands -10-12 ministerial berths with key portfolios and the post of deputy chief minister or home minister — to vote in favour of the trust vote. The BJP, which has 121 MLAs in the 288-member House, is 23 votes short of a majority.

A section of BJP leaders would prefer to take the Sena along as they believe accepting outside support of the NCP would be politically damaging.

A senior BJP leader told HT that the doors were kept open for the Sena even after its MLAs sat in Opposition on Monday. “Talks with the Sena are on through several channels. We are still hopeful of the Sena withdrawing the claim [to the post of leader of the opposition] if we strike a suitable deal.”

By Edos News

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