A day after it decided to sit in the opposition in the Maharashtra assembly, the Shiv Sena still harboured hopes of an amicable settlement with the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) on Tuesday and a share in power in the state.
Sena spokesperson Neelam Gorhe said on Tuesday that talks with the BJP have been suspended, but barely a couple of hours later, party president Uddhav Thackeray said negotiations were underway on power sharing. The Sena also faces the formidable task of safeguarding its 63 legislators, some of whom are reportedly being lured by the BJP.
The BJP seemed unperturbed by Sena's decision to sit in the opposition in the state legislature as this did not spell an immediate threat to the minority government's survival. "It is Shiv Sena's decision. We are not worried as many of their legislators have already assured us of support. There are sufficient MLAs to help us secure a majority," Revenue Minister Eknath Khadse said on Monday evening.
The BJP has to ensure that 144 votes fall in its kitty on Wednesday evening to clear the crucial floor test after which Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis' government will have a smooth sail for at least another six months. This would give time for the BJP strategists to secure support from possible quitters or breakaway groups from the Shiv Sena, Congress and the NCP who could later be accommodated on BJP tickets.
BJP sources said that among other things, the Sena's decision to boycott Prime Minister Narendra Modi's cabinet expansion and to withdraw its nominee Anil Y. Desai is being treated as "a boiling point" as there is little or no hope of any renewed rapprochement between the two former allies of 25 years. But the party is also worried about the political fallout of depending solely on support of the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) and unreliable Independents or smaller parties.
Meanwhile, Fadnavis prepares for the election of the assembly speaker and the floor test here on Wednesday afternoon. The BJP has 121 legislators, one died recently; there is one pre-poll ally Rashtriya Samaj Paksha. This takes the total support the BJP commands at the moment to 122 legislators.
The Sena is the second largest party in the assembly with 63 legislators, the Congress has 42, NCP has 41 MLAs and the rest are Independents or smaller parties in the 288-member house, now standing at 287 after the death of a BJP legislator.