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What to do, wonders BJP in Maharashtra
Monday October 20, 2014 6:48 PM, Quaid Najmi, IANS

The BJP seems to have been caught in a cleft-stick in Maharashtra, thanks to a fractured mandate in the 13th assembly elections.

With no political party securing clear majority in the 288-member assembly, a period of political instability looms ahead in Maharashtra - though the Nationalist Congress Party has taken the lead to prevent such a situation.

Despite emerging as the single-largest party with 123 (122+1 ally) seats, the BJP falls 22 short of a simple majority - it cannot form the government, and it does not want to sit in opposition.

This has set off a hectic politicking between the Shiv Sena and Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), both looking at the possibility of cobbling up a workable alliance - against the backdrop of the rancour developed in the past one month between the 25-year-old former allies.

The BJP would be entirely dependent on a demanding partner for pushing through any policy initiatives or major decisions, though the prime BJP chief ministerial contender Devendra Fadnavis, 44, is considered an aggressive go-getter.

While the NCP provided some relief with its offer of unconditional external support, this may come with many hidden strings attached, besides growls from the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS).

"We have supported the BJP in the interest of the state. Under the present scenario, there is a need for political stability. We shall not join the government. There will be no compromise on our basic principles," NCP president Sharad Pawar said at party meeting here Monday.

One option before the BJP would be to approach the Shiv Sena for rapprochement and renewed alliance with the Shiv Sena even as the RSS distanced itself from "any political decisions" of the BJP Monday.

But there is a hitch - the BJP has already said the chief minister's post is non-negotiable, and any government led by it would not have the post of deputy chief minister - and, according to some speculation, it may offer the Sena at best five ministries.

"In such a scenario, what attraction is left for us to support or join them," wondered a senior Sena leader Monday.

Uddhav has made it clear - the BJP is free to take anybody's help in government formation, but the Sena would not offer unsolicited support under any circumstances.

However, he kept the door ajar, saying if the BJP could guarantee upholding the state's integrity, the Sena might consider any proposal favourably.

"If the need arises, we are ready to sit in the opposition," Uddhav said, indicating that pressure tactics may not work now.

Sunday's election outcome shows that the numbers game has become tricky on all fronts with many possibilities emerging.

The BJP needs a minimum of 22 seats for a simple majority - with the NCP's 41, it crosses the minimum threshold (145) comfortably.

In another potential scenario, if the Congress (42) and NCP (41) were to unite and offer 'outside support' to Sena (63), the three together achieve the magic figure of 146.

Some smaller parties and independents too may follow suit since all had one objective of keeping the "BJP out" at all costs.

NCP leader Ajit Pawar Monday revealed that the Congress indeed had plans to support the Shiv Sena in government formation, but the NCP rejected the move.

The Congress is no stranger to such politics - it had tried out short-term external support several times to prop up various central governments from Charan Singh, Chandra Shekhar, H.D. Deve Gowda, and I.K. Gujral.

Hinting at such a possible scenario, Sharad Pawar said that the Congress-NCP cannot form the government on their own, so it (NCP) had decided to support the BJP for political stability in the state.

"Moreover, whenever the Congress has offered support to any government in the past, it has always collapsed," Pawar pointed out.

On their part, Sena sources pointed out that another option for the BJP would be to name Pankaja Munde as the next chief minister, which move has emotional overtones for both parties. Her additional credentials: She would be the first Maharashtrian woman from the OBC to get the post.

At present, all parties are keeping their cards close to their chest and a clearer picture is likely to emerge over the next couple of days.

(Quaid Najmi can be contacted at

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