NEW DELHI :
Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) chief Sharad Pawar on Wednesday put an end to speculation over his party joining hands with the Shiv Sena in Maharashtra to form a government, saying the mandate of the people was for his party to sit in the Opposition in the assembly.
Pawar’s statement is a huge relief for the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which was facing a tough-talking Shiv Sena in talks on government formation. The Shiv Sena was firm that it will form the government with the BJP if there is equal distribution of portfolios and a sharing of the chief minister’s post.
Senior Shiv Sena leaders had claimed that the party could manage up to 170 seats in the 288-member assembly.
“Where is the question (of NCP having a stake in government formation)?" Pawar asked on Wednesday. The BJP and the Shiv Sena have been in alliance for 25 years and they “will come together sooner or later", he said.
“If we had the numbers, we would not have waited for anyone. The Congress and NCP did not cross the 100 mark...we will work as a responsible Opposition," Pawar said.
The remarks were made at a press conference after meeting senior Shiv Sena leader and Rajya Sabha member Sanjay Raut.
BJP leaders in Maharashtra were quick to welcome Pawar’s decision.
“I welcome Pawar’s decision that the NCP would sit in Opposition," said senior BJP leader Sudhir Mungantiwar, who holds the finance portfolio in the outgoing government of chief minister Devendra Fadnavis.
The deadlock over government formation in Maharashtra has now continued for a fortnight as both the BJP and the Shiv Sena have refrained from making any official announcement in this regard. However, some announcement is likely to be made soon as the tenure of the present assembly ends on 9 November.
Congress treasurer Ahmed Patel met Union minister and senior BJP leader Nitin Gadkari early on Wednesday. Patel, however, clarified that the meeting had no connection with Maharashtra politics and was instead about farmer issues.
The development is significant as it follows the meeting chief minister Devendra Fadnavis had with Gadkari on Monday in the national capital and a meeting with Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh chief Mohan Bhagwat in Nagpur late on Tuesday night.
PTI contributed to this story.