Shiv Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray will lead the next alliance government in Maharashtra, Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) chief Sharad Pawar said after a marathon meeting on Friday, signalling an anticipated breakthrough in government formation.
If the veteran NCP leader is correct, this will be the first time that a member of the Thackeray family will become Maharashtra chief minister. This will also be the first time the Shiv Sena, a regional party founded in 1966 by Uddhav’s father Balasaheb Thackeray, will be joining hands with the Congress and NCP.
Pawar’s comments followed Friday’s first formal meeting in Mumbai between the three parties, which have made a joint pitch for power in the state.
“The issue of leadership is not pending. There is consensus on Uddhav Thackeray leading the new government," Pawar told reporters, after the meeting. “We are discussing other issues. There will be a press conference soon where we will put out more details."
Such a consensus could finally give Maharashtra a government after a political deadlock for nearly a month. Votes cast in assembly elections were counted on 24 October, but the pre-poll alliance between Bharatiya Janata Party and Shiv Sena collapsed over the latter’s demand for the chief minister’s post, even if rotational.
“Talks were fruitful. The meeting is still going on and we are discussing a number of issues. We will come back to you (media) once there is more clarity," Thackeray told reporters on Friday evening. The meeting was also attended by his son, legislator Aditya Thackeray.
Former chief minister and senior Congress leader Prithviraj Chavan told reporters that talks between the three parties will continue. The parties will likely hold a joint press conference on Saturday.
According to people aware of the developments, a number of issues came up for discussion in the meeting on Friday, including the contours of the alliance, a power-sharing formula, a common minimum programme, and the distribution of ministerial posts. Saturday’s meeting is expected to go into the details of ministerial portfolios.
Earlier in the day, senior BJP leader and Union minister Nitin Gadkari predicted that even if the three parties came together, the government would not last long. “Opportunism is the base of their alliance. The three parties have become united with the only motto—to keep the BJP out of power. I have doubts whether this government will be formed... Even if it is formed, it will not last beyond six to eight months," Gadkari told PTI.
In the assembly polls, the BJP won 105 seats and Shiv Sena 56, while the Congress-NCP combine won 98 seats in the 288-member assembly. If the three non-BJP parties do come together, the Congress and the NCP will return to power after a gap of five years.
PTI contributed to this story