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Will Nitin Gadkari be the consensus Maharashtra CM candidate?

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Nitin Gadkari

New Delhi, Nov 6 : A fortnight after the Maharshtra verdict, and as many days of verbal spats between the Shiv Sena and BJP, an alliance government of the two is very much on the horizon. What’s interesting is that the Sangh may sacrifice its blue-eyed boy, Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis, in the power tussle. And the political grapevine has it that another of their charmed sons — Union Road Transport Minister Nitin Gadkari — may be the likely replacement. The announcement of Sena returning to the coalition fold may come as early as tomorrow.

Both Fadnavis and Gadkari are from Nagpur and in spite of the apparent cordial relationship in front of the camera, the friction between the two is an open secret.

The RSS has apparently put out a roadmap to install Gadkari as the new CM of the state, say sources. This could give a window to Shiv Sena to scale down its demand of chief ministership on a rotation basis.

Nitin Gadkari maintains good relations with Sangh chief Mohan Bhagwat. It was Bhagwat who catapulted Nitin Gadkari in national politics and made him BJP President despite opposition from many veteran leaders. Also, during 2014 when GAdkari threw his hat in the fray, it was Bhagwat’s intervention that convinced him to withdraw and restrict himself to the national politics.

The Shiv Sena has been upset with Devendra Fadnavis on his rigid stand. RSS top leaders sent feelers to the Sena advising it against jumping the ship, amid its parleys with the NCP. The Sangh is also believed to have assured the Sena that all “issues” will be “amicably resolved”.

It assumes even more significance, as Sena leader Kishore Tiwari wrote to Bhagwat asking him to bring in Gadkari in the picture, saying only he can end the impasse in “two hours”.

Gadkari is known to be Sangh’s favourite: he hails from Nagpur, where the RSS headquarters is located. Earlier on Tuesday, Fadnavis was called by the Sangh chief and they had a 90-minute-long discussion, but the outcome is not known. Even senior RSS functionaries are tightlipped about the meeting. Fadnavis had met Nitin Gadkari and Amit Shah on Monday in Delhi.

The RSS activated its political management to broker peace within BJP and Shiv Sena after the NCP refused to lend support to any formation. The Sangh had to move quickly as the tenure of the state Assembly expires this week.

The BJP-Shiv Sena will have to relent before November 9.

On the Congress front, Sonia Gandhi’s close confidante Ahmed Patel met Nitin Gadkari on Wednesday morning, before NCP’s refusal to facilitate any government formation.

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Maharashtra: BJP-Sena split unites a divided Congress-NCP

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Sonia and Udhav Thackeray

Mumbai, Nov 14 : Congress Interim President Sonia Gandhi is said to be a happy woman, smiling and grinning from ear-to-ear over the latest political developments in Maharashtra.

The unexpected split in Bharatiya Janata Party and Shiv Sena has come as a boon to the Maharashtra Congress and its ally, Sharad Pawar-led Nationalist Congress Party, party sources reveal.

It’s well-known that the state Congress has always been a big divided house since years, and also harboured huge differences with its 20-year old ally, the NCP.

Since 1999 to 2014, the Congressmen were either engaged in an in-house crabby battle to pull down each other and simultaneously the NCP, as the latter always seemed to have a political edge, and unwittingly giving a political advantage to the rivals.

Even as late as October, the party-men and party-women were engaged in bitter political skirmishes at all levels, including the powerful Mumbai Congress, which dented its image and with serious repercussions at the hustings both in Lok Sabha and assembly election results.

After the October assembly poll results were announced, the Congress came trumps with 44 seats and NCP with 54 – against 42 and 41 in 2014 respectively – boosting their morale though they were miles away from forming a viable government.

Shortly afterwards, the political landscape changed dramatically with the Shiv Sena splitting from the BJP and the ruling NDA at the centre, and extending a clawy paw to the bewildered Congress-NCP.

As the ‘clock’ ticked away, the two opposition parties were naturally reluctant to extend their ‘hand’ of friendship to a party which was not only harshly critical but downright abusive for nearly 53 years, spanning the eras of Indira Gandhi, Rajiv Gandhi, Narasimha Rao and Manmohan Singh, besides Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi.

After Sena President Uddhav Thackeray climbed down his pedestal and called Sonia Gandhi for support, shooed away an alleged BJP emissary and Hindutva leader Sambhaji Bhide Guruji, withdrew his sole minister Arvind Sawant from the union cabinet, his intentions became clear.

As the seriousness of the situation unfolded, the Congress-NCP got into the act, presenting an unprecedented picture of unity and camaraderie, and initiated the process of raising a potential tri-partite government with the Sena as the lead partner.

A party leader said Sonia Gandhi was occasionally both amused and bemused to see her warring tribe assuring her in practically one voice that an alliance with the long-perceived enemy Shiv Sena was worth a political gamble to keep BJP at bay.

Though she raised an eyebrow of doubt, the Congress earnestly got down to business, and practically adopted Sharad Pawar as the Mandrake who could perform the unbelievable magic of giving Maharashtra a “MahaShivAghadi” alliance of Congress-NCP-Shiv Sena – in the coming days.

Adopting a magnanimous approach, the 79-year old Pawar also reciprocated by never displaying the NCP’s overzealousness in the government formation, keeping the Congress sentiments ahead of his own.

In fact, soon after the election results, Sonia Gandhi had warmly received and congratulated Pawar at her home in New Delhi for almost single-handedly dragging both the allies out of the political muck, when the BJP-Sena squabble over the power-sharing was just breaking out.

The past few days have seen the recently-divorced Sena being grudgingly accepted by Congress-NCP as a potential key ally, many of their leaders visiting the ailing Sena MP Sanjay Raut – the man who set the ball rolling against the BJP – convalescing in hospital, and displayed other gestures of goodwill.

A cheerful Thackeray – who has undergone a change of wardrobe from his awesome collection of ‘kurta-pyjamas’ to formal shirts-trousers – is seen hopping from one tiresome meeting to another with his newfound future saviours, and hopes to re-establish the Sena’s position as the once-dreaded ‘Big Brother’ in state politics.

After all, it has dawned on him that finally, the time has come for a ‘son-rise’ even in the Thackeray family!

(Quaid Najmi can be contacted at: [email protected])

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Token seat not accepted this time: Chirag Paswan

The LJP is a part of the BJP-led NDA government at the Centre.

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Chirag Paswan

New Delhi, Nov 13 : The Lok Janshakti Party, which is ready to contest the Assembly elections in Jharkhand alone on 50 seats, has made it clear that it doesn’t want to contest polls on a token seat.

The party has gone its own way from the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) and has announced that it will contest alone on 50 out of the 81 seats.

The LJP’s national President and son of Union Minister Ram Vilas Paswan, Chirag Paswan told IANS on Wednesday: “Last time (previous Assembly elections) the Bharatiya Janata Party allowed the LJP to contest on just one seat. But this time the LJP has made it clear that we won’t contest on any token seat. We will contest the election only on the seat where our party has a public base”.

Junior Paswan who took over the party reigns earlier this month said: “Last time we were given the Shikaripada seat where we did not have any candidate also. If the BJP does it again, we are not ready”.

The LJP is a part of the BJP-led NDA government at the Centre.

He said the LJP has strengthened in the state in the recent past and the party’s state unit wanted to go solo in the Assembly elections. Still, we demanded six seats from the BJP but the efforts went in vain.

Chirag said: “I made an honest effort by contacting the BJP’s central leadership and demanded six seats to contest. But we could not get their consent. Therefore, the LJP has decided to contest this election alone”.

However, he made it clear that even if the LJP wins any seat in the election, it will support the NDA. “We are with the NDA at the Centre and state as well,” he said.

Replying to a query about the impact of the LJP’s decision to go solo in the election, he said it won’t affect the alliance.

“If some opposition parties are happy that they (BJP and LJP) lack coordination in Jharkhand and Shiv Sena has gone its own way in Maharashtra, they should not be overwhelmed,” said Paswan.

He said we had no alliance in Jharkhand, our pact is based on Bihar. We entered into an alliance in Bihar under which we contest the Lok Sabha and Assembly elections there together.

Chirag added that the BJP, LJP and the Janata Dal (United) would contest the 2020 Bihar Assembly elections together.

We will win more than 225 seats in the Assembly elections in Bihar like we won 39 out of 40 seats during the Lok Sabha elections. Chief Minister (Nitish Kumar) will retain power, he said.

The LJP chief said that the party will contest the upcoming Delhi Assembly elections alone.

Asked about the imposition of President’s Rule in Maharashtra and the break-up between the BJP and the Shiv Sena, he said: “People of Maharashtra have given a clear mandate to the NDA. People wanted to form a government under NDA but the decisions from parties and their political aspirations took things to President’s Rule. It’s unfortunate”.

The LJP has announced the candidates for 10 seats in Jharkhand. The state will go to the polls in five phases between November 30 and December 20 while counting is scheduled for December 23.

(P.K. Jha can be contacted at [email protected])

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New political equations in Maharashtra: Toying with their own T-20 formula?

Shiv Sena and NCP would share the post of CM for 30 months each with Congress keeping the Deputy Chief Minister post for the full tenure of 60 months (five years), sources in various parties revealed.

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Shiv Sena leaders with Maharashtra Governor

Mumbai, Nov 13 : With President’s Rule in effect from Nov 12, Maharashtra politics shifted from high-tension to a relaxed mode and the main contenders for government formation breathed easy.

The Nationalist Congress Party, Congress and Shiv Sena – who seem to be headed for an unprecedented “MahaShivAghadi” alliance – are currently engaged in formal/informal talks at various levels with their respective shopping lists of demands.

The crux of the new partnership would be, of course, the coveted post of Chief Minister, a tug-of-war on which saw the pre-poll alliance of Bharatiya Janata Party-Shiv Party collapse on Monday as the BJP looked on silently.

Under the new upcoming scenario, an initial formula discussed was Shiv Sena and NCP would share the post of CM for 30 months each with Congress keeping the Deputy Chief Minister post for the full tenure of 60 months (five years), sources in various parties revealed.

Then a new formula was floated from the Congress side – the three parties sharing the CM’s term for 20 months each and also rotating the Deputy Chief Minister for a like period by all parties.

However, Sena President Uddhav Thackeray – who discarded his trademark kurtas for a set of formal shirt and trousers – angrily showed his fangs and rejected it outright,

A party source said it was the Sena demand with the BJP, which did not budge on sharing the CM’s post for 30 months, so there was no question of settling for a term of 20 months — “How shall we face our legislators and supporters?”

A counter suggestion was to give Sena 30 months, while the NCP-Congress could share it for 15 months each and also divide the post of Deputy Chief Minister among themselves.

Presently, the master-potters Congress’ Ahmed Patel and NCP President Sharad Pawar are currently giving finishing touches to the final pot of goodies from which all the parties would sup for the next five years.

Another issue is the Common Minimum Programme (CMP) among the three parties for which Patel, Pawar and other leaders are poring over the manifestos of the three parties to pick out the agreeable issues and weeding out the contentious ones.

These would include the obvious agreeables like — complete waiver of farm loans, reviewing the implementation of the crop insurance and related schemes, boosting the agricultural produce market commodities, et al.

Among the contentious ones could be — five per cent reservations for the Muslim communities which was spiked by the former BJP regime, Shiv Sena’s demand for conferring a Bharat Ratna on Vinayak Damodar aVeer’ Savarkar, soften its ‘Hindutva’ agenda to ensure the new alliance doesn’t get a saffron tinge, adopt a more inclusive approach towards all non-Maharashtrians, particularly north-Indians, minorities, etc.

It may be recalled that when the outgoing Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis had implemented reservations in education and government jobs for the Marathas, all state parties — including the Opposition Congress-NCP — had full-throatedly supported the historic move.

Some Congress-NCP leaders have privately lauded Thackeray’s decision earlier this week to politely show door to Hindutva leader and Shiv Pratisthan Hindustan leader Sambhaji Bhide ‘Guruji’ who was hoping to win over the Sena back to the BJP fold, and his decision to withdraw the party’s sole nominee, Heavy Industries Minister Arvind Sawant from the union cabinet.

A section of Congress-NCP is confident that despite all the vexed issues that may confront the potential alliance with Sena, things would be amicably sorted out as “Pawar hai to mumkin hai”.

A worried BJP — which Thackeray revealed is still in hot pursuit of the former ally — has now deployed the Sena’s dreaded bogey-man and former CM Narayan Rane, to help it (BJP) muster the magical 145 simple majority figure in the 288-member assembly.

Leaders on all sides have warned that this time, it will be near-impossible to engineer defections or horse-trading by/from any parties as the adefectors’ could face the prospect of finishing their long-term political careers at the altar of short-term pecuniary gains.

In the meantime, the state awaits the dawn of a new era of coalition politics with the 134-year old Congress and 20-year old NCP planning to hug their bitter opponent, the 53-year old Sena — barely three days before the seventh death anniversary of its founder, the late Bal Thackeray on Nov 17.

(Quaid Najmi can be contacted at: [email protected])

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