Exactly 17 days after the Assembly election results were declared, the two main pre-poll alliance partners – Bharatiya Janata Party and Shiv Sena – are now bitter rivals, not even on ‘talking terms’, while the opposition parties have maintained a deafening silence of ‘wait-and-watch’ on the issue of government formation in Maharashtra.
Maharashtra Governor B.S. Koshyari on Saturday evening invited the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) — the single-largest party — to indicate its willingness to form the next government, barely four hours before the tenure of the state Assembly expires at midnight.
In the past few days, the Governor has held at least two meetings with the state Advocate-General Ashutosh Kumbhakoni on the legal and constitutional aspects and the position vis-a-vis the current unprecedented political impasse.
He also met outgoing Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis, Sena leaders, besides leaders of Congress and Nationalist Congress Party, and other experts in a bid to resolve the political tangle.
Commanding 105 MLAs in its kitty, the BJP has confidently claimed it will form the next government, but the Sena has dared BJP to stake a claim and form the government with their inadequate numbers in the 288-member house.
The Sena has maintained that it is ready to join hands with the BJP – provided it was willing to honour its commitment on sharing the post of Chief Minister and other portfolios on an equitable basis.
However, on Friday, after Fadnavis denied that there was any such understanding before the Lok Sabha elections, Sena President Uddhav Thackeray hit back by calling the BJP a party of ‘liars’ with whom he was not interested in negotiating.
Curiously, both parties claim that “the partnership is very much on” and they would maintain their side of ‘alliance-dharma’ till the end, before the other side snaps it.
On the opposition side, the Congress and NCP’s stand is since the mandate has gone to the BJP-Sena, they must form the government as soon as possible in the interests of the state.
It is at this critical juncture Governor Koshyari will play a key role in exploring the possibility for a stable government for the state in accordance with Constitutional provisions and in tune with the public mandate, which now appears to be a fractured one.
Among other things, he is likely to order the swearing-in ceremony of the newly-elected legislators by a Pro-Tem Speaker over the next few days.
The next step could be to invite the single largest elected party/group to form their government, failing which the Governor may invite all parties separately or as groups to explore the possibility of giving a new stable regime in the state.
Only after these efforts fail to yield results, he may submit a report to the President and recommend President’s Rule in the state with the newly-elected Assembly kept in a state of suspended animation till a viable government was formed.
The state has a few likely political scenarios which could evolve over the next few days:
- The BJP could still stake its claim to form a minority government — as it did in 2014 with the hesitant support of the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) — and hope to get a majority on the floor of the House, though there are doubts how it will touch the simple majority figure of 145.
- The Shiv Sena can stake its claim to form a government with the outside support of opposition parties, smaller outfits and independents and hope to sail through the confidence vote in the House.
- The Shiv Sena could form the government in alliance with the NCP with the Congress offering outside support without compromising on its known political differences vis-a-vis the Sena.
Again, if all these efforts don’t fructify, there could be the spectre of mid-term polls after a few months, coinciding with the Delhi Assembly elections or so – which all parties want to avoid at any cost.
As per present indications, scenario No. 3 is a potentially emerging development, though a change of heart by the BJP is not entirely ruled out in the wake of the euphoria over the Ayodhya verdict.
Parties are also wary of the upcoming crucial bi-annual election for nine MLC seats and nomination of 12 MLCs — on the advice of the new government by the Governor to the Upper House — around April 2020.
Then, around July, there are the scheduled bi-annual elections for seven seats to the Rajya Sabha from the state, in which one of the contenders will be NCP President Sharad Pawar himself.
All these would have far-reaching consequences on the state Legislative Council arithmetic right till 2026 and have serious bearing on the majority enjoyed by the Congress-NCP there, said experts.
(Quaid Najmi can be contacted at [email protected])