Amid the Maharashtra nail-biter, the ruling BJP and ally Shiv Sena are driving a hard bargain over the chief minister's post and a 50:50 power-sharing ratio.
The new government is unlikely to take charge before Diwali as a buoyed Sena is expected to push the BJP to the edge to grab plum portfolios.
As results started pouring in on Thursday, Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis and Shiv Sena president Uddhav Thackeray congratulated each other over the phone.
A section of Shiv Sena leaders has been projecting Thackeray's son Aditya — who won from Worli — as the next chief minister, though Prime Minister Narendra Modi and BJP President Amit Shah maintained during campaign rallies that Fadnavis will keep the top job.
At separate news conferences on Thursday, Thackeray and Fadnavis kept the media guessing on the CM's post and power-sharing ratio but asserted that the mandate was for the BJP-Shiv Sena MahaYuti (grand alliance) to form the government.
Thackeray said the 50:50 formula was decided upon before the Lok Sabha elections. "It is time to remind the BJP about the formula arrived at when Amit bhai visited my home... We had agreed to contest fewer seats (than the BJP), but I cannot accommodate the BJP every time. I should allow my party to grow," Thackeray said.
It will anyway be a transparent process, he said.
"Political parties need to keep their feet on the ground. Else people will show them their place," the Sena chief said, taking a dig at the BJP.
Meanwhile, senior Sena leader and former Lok Sabha speaker Manohar Joshi said the next CM will be from the Shiv Sena, even as the party's high-profile spokesperson Sanjay Raut said there will be 50:50 power-sharing.
Fadnavis ruled out any ambiguity. "We have decided (the formula), we will go by it," he said.
"Results are coming. You have to decide whether you want to work more and toil hard during Diwali," he said in a lighter vein, indicating the government formation may take time. The chief minister, however, said that both the BJP and the Shiv Sena suffered because of rebels, and that it was not a gain of the Congress-NCP MahaAghadi (grand front) Opposition as their numbers are more or less the same. "I had spoken to 15 rebels. They are in touch with me," he said.