NEW DELHI : The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and Shiv Sena inched closer to striking a deal in Maharashtra on Monday, said senior leaders aware of development, adding that they could stake claim to form the government on Friday.

The state has been in a political deadlock for nearly 12 days over demands by Shiv Sena, the junior partner in the coalition, for an equal share in governance, including the chief ministership.

The political action on Monday shifted from Mumbai to New Delhi for the first time since the assembly election results were announced, with chief minister Devendra Fadnavis meeting top BJP leaders. On late Monday evening, Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) chief Sharad Pawar, too, held a meeting with Congress president Sonia Gandhi. He ruled out any assurances given by the Shiv Sena, but added: “Can’t say what will happen."

For Fadnavis, the day began with a meeting with BJP president Amit Shah, followed by a meeting with Bhupendra Yadav, who spearheaded the party’s campaign in the Maharashtra assembly polls, and another with Union minister Nitin Gadkari, who hails from Maharashtra.

“We are confident that BJP-Sena will form government and it could be as early as 8 November. There are a few crucial ministries that our alliance partner is likely to get, including either urban development or revenues department," a senior BJP leader aware of developments said, requesting anonymity.

Another party leader said while the BJP’s offer of a deputy chief minister’s post is still on the table, that of sharing the chief minister’s chair was “not-negotiable".

“I will not comment anything on government formation. All I will say is that Maharashtra needs a new government as soon as possible," Fadnavis said after the meeting with Shah.

In the assembly elections, BJP won 105 seats, Shiv Sena won 56, while the Congress-NCP combine won 98 seats. The delay in government formation by the National Democratic Alliance partners had led to speculations that Shiv Sena was looking at a possible understanding with Opposition parties to form the state government. After meeting Gandhi on Monday, Pawar ruled out any assurances given by the Shiv Sena. “I came to Delhi to brief Mrs Gandhi on the ground situation in Maharashtra. We have not exactly discussed anything on government formation...Neither Shiv Sena has given me assurance. I cannot talk on behalf of Shiv Sena. The mandate the people have given is to sit in Opposition, but cannot say what will happen," Pawar told reporters.

Pawar’s meeting with Gandhi lasted nearly an hour and, according to senior Congress leaders, the two veterans discussed possible scenarios. Gandhi is known to have indicated that the onus of government formation lies with the BJP-Shiv Sena, and any development for the Opposition can happen only if Shiv Sena decides to leave the NDA.

On its part, senior Shiv Sena leader Sanjay Raut met Maharashtra governor Bhagat Singh Koshyari on Monday. Raut later said whoever has the majority should be allowed to form the government. “We informed the governor that the Shiv Sena is not responsible for the current political situation in the state over formation of new government," Raut was quoted by the Press Trust of India.


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