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Finally, Shiv Sena decides to sit in opposition
Monday November 10, 2014 8:45 PM, IANS

Barely two days before the BJP minority government in Maharashtra headed by Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis is to seek a vote of confidence, its former ally Shiv Sena Monday decided to sit in the opposition.

However, there is no immediate danger to the survival of the Fadnavis ministry as the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) with its 41 members said it will extend "unconditional external support" to the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government in case of voting in the interests of political stability.

Announcing the Sena's position, party spokesperson Neelam Gorhe said: "We have sent a letter signed by Shiv Sena president Uddhav Thackeray to this effect to the legislature secretariat. In the letter we have requested that the name of Sena legislature party leader Eknath Shinde should be announced as leader of opposition at the earliest."

She added that the Sena's claim was by virtue of its position as the second largest party with 63 legislators in the 287-member house, with the Congress having 42 and NCP 41 members.

The BJP is the single largest party with 121 members after one of its legislators died recently and one pre-poll ally, the Rashtriya Samaj Paksha.

The Shiv Sena's announcement came even as Thackeray had Sunday given a two-day ultimatum to BJP to declare that it would not seek NCP support in the confidence vote.

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," Khadse claimed, as the party has to ensure 144 votes falling in its kitty Wednesday.

Earlier in the day, Gorhe had indicated the party's mood when she said that talks with the BJP on power-sharing and other pending matters had been stalled.

The Sena's 63 members came to the Vidhan Bhavan wearing traditional Maharashtrian orange turbans, raising slogans and symbolically occupied the opposition benches in the assembly as the three-day assembly session started Monday.

Besides, the Sena also plans to contest for the post of assembly speaker, scheduled prior to the vote of confidence here Wednesday.

The Sena's move was apparently triggered by NCP president Sharad Pawar's reiteration of his party's suo moto "unconditional external support" to the BJP in the interest of political stability in the state and to avoid fresh elections.

"We do not want to destabilize the government. We want a stable government in the state. The NCP legislators will take a decision at the relevant time (of voting) for whom to vote or not," Pawar contended, implying that NCP was the key to the government's survival.

He also ticked off the Shiv Sena by saying that "the NCP did not require anybody's advice on whom to support or not".

"Nobody can tell us who we should vote for or not. We are supporting this government to ensure political stability in Maharashtra. That does not mean we will support them on all issues," Pawar declared.

Pawar's statements served to further embarrass the BJP, already warned by the Sena not to seek the NCP's support in the floor test.

The Sena decision rings down the curtains on nearly two months of bitter acrimony between the two allies of 25 years.

It led to BJP snapping off ties with Sena Sep 25, both parties fighting the elections separately, the Sena boycotting cabinet expansion of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and also withdrawing its nominee at the last minute.

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