Maharashtra government formation enters last lap

Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) chief Sharad Pawar and senior Congress leader Ahmed Patel during a meeting regarding government formation in Maharashtra. (PTI Photo)

Government formation exercise in Maharashtra entered the final lap on Thursday with Congress and NCP reaching “complete unanimity” on sharing of portfolios amongst them, setting the stage for talks with Shiv Sena in Mumbai on Friday.

Issues such has Shiv Sena and NCP sharing the chief minister's post for two-and-a-half-years each and Congress' claim to the Assembly Speaker's post were yet to be resolved and a final call could be taken after talks with the Sena leadership.

Congress President Sonia Gandhi summoned an urgent meeting of the Congress Working Committee (CWC) on Thursday morning to brief the members about the political situation in Maharashtra and seek its approval over the decision to support a Shiv Sena-led government.

Congress and NCP leaders went into a huddle separately to discuss issues such as the common minimum programme and ministerial berths and later gathered at the residence of NCP supremo Sharad Pawar for a final round of talks.

There were indications that Shiv Sena and NCP would get 15 ministerial berths each, while the Congress may get 12 portfolios. NCP and Congress were keen to have the crucial post of the Speaker of the Legislative Assembly and a final decision in this regard could be expected by Saturday.

“The NCP and the Congress have completed discussions on all issues. There is complete unanimity amongst us. The decision will be taken on Friday on the architecture of the alliance. The final decision will be announced in Mumbai,” senior Congress leader Prithviraj Chavan and senior NCP leader Nawab Malik told reporters here before leaving for Mumbai.

On Friday, Congress and NCP leaders will brief minor allies such as Samajwadi Party, Swabhimani Paksha, RPI (Kawade) , CPI(M) and Peasants and Workers Party of India on the power-sharing proposal and then head for talks with the Sena.

Congress and NCP have convened meetings of their respective legislature parties on Friday, while Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray is also meeting the newly-elected legislators of his party.

“If all goes well, we can stake claim to form the government by Saturday.” a senior NCP leader said adding that the government could be in place either on Sunday or Monday.

Maharashtra was placed under President's Rule on November 12 as none of the four political parties could rustle up enough numbers to stake claim to form the government. The assembly elections saw the BJP-Shiv Sena alliance emerge as a clear winner 161 seats in the 288-member assembly.

However, after a bitter fall-out over sharing the spoils of power with the BJP, Shiv Sena walked out of the alliance only to join hands with archrivals Congress and NCP.

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