Uncertainty prevailed over government formation in Maharashtra as the Congress and the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) on Monday decided to consult other members of the pre-poll alliance they had formed in the state on the proposal to join hands with the Shiv Sena to form the next government.
The decision to take on board smaller parties such as the Samajwadi Party, Peasants and Workers Party of India and Swabhimani Shetkari Sanghtana was taken at a meeting between Congress president Sonia Gandhi and NCP chief Sharad Pawar in Delhi on Monday evening.
“We need to talk to allies that fought elections with us in Maharashtra,” Pawar told reporters after his 50-minute meeting with Sonia. “Those who are with us should be taken into confidence,” he added.
At a news conference, Pawar said he and Sonia did not discuss government formation in Maharashtra. “We discussed in detail the political situation in Maharashtra. We will keep an eye on the situation. Congress and NCP leaders will hold further talks on the future course of action,” he said. Senior Congress leader AK Antony was also present in the meeting.
The Congress said the two parties will continue to hold discussions on the issue.
“Sharad Pawar met the Congress president today and briefed her on the situation in Maharashtra. It was decided that in a day or two, representatives from NCP and Congress will meet in Delhi to discuss the way forward,” Congress’ chief spokesperson Randeep Singh Surjewala said in a tweet. Congress and NCP have held a series of meetings to finalise the details of a Sena-led government in Maharashtra.
Ahead of his meeting with Sonia, Pawar said all political parties seeking to stake a claim to forming the government had to “choose their own paths”.
“BJP-Shiv Sena fought together, we (NCP) and Congress fought together. They have to choose their path and we will do our politics,” he told reporters in the Parliament House complex.
Meanwhile, a Congress functionary said on condition of anonymity that some pre-poll alliance partners had reservations in joining hands with the Shiv Sena, given that they had fought a bitter electoral battle with the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and Uddhav Thackeray’s party.
Some constituents of the United Progressive Alliance (UPA), especially Kerala-based parties, have also asked the Congress to take a considered decision on forming a coalition government with the Sena, which had been an ally of the BJP for nearly 30 years, the functionary said.
So far, the Congress appears to be divided on the issue with its state unit pushing for an alliance with the Sena and also joining the government and a section of the central leadership resisting it.
This section, mainly from Kerala, is of the view that the Congress will suffer “huge electoral loses” in the state if it ties up with the Sena, arguing that the move was bound to antagonise a large chunk of minorities.
But a senior Maharashtra party leader insisted that it would be “extremely difficult” for them to take a step back at this stage when they had almost decided to join hands with the Sena.
To firm up a united stand, the Congress leadership has asked its 44 Maharashtra legislators to meet and discuss the issue with senior leader AK Antony, who too is from Kerala.