Sharad Pawar shows clear preference for Opposition role after mandate
The Congress on Wednesday added to the sense of uncertainty around government formation in Maharashtra by describing it as an “evolving situation”, and refused to categorically rule itself out of the process.
“Maharashtra is an evolving situation and in such an evolving situation, Congress general secretary in-charge Mallikarjun Kharge and the leaders of the State will decide. It won’t be proper to comment on this any further,” Congress chief spokesperson Randeep Surjewala said.
Mr. Surjewala’s ambivalent stance seems to reflect the divide within the Congress over the issue of trying for an alternative coalition with the Shiv Sena and the Nationalist Congress party (NCP) to keep the BJP out.
In the 288-member Assembly, adding the number of seats secured by the Shiv Sena (56), NCP (54) and the Congress throws up the possibility of an alternative coalition.
A section of the Congress is keen to explore this possibility but wants NCP supremo Sharad Pawar to take the lead in bringing the unlikely allies together.
The NCP, the third largest party in the Assembly election, has not only to battle large-scale defections from the party to the BJP but also a summons from Enforcenment Directorate (ED) to the party chief in an alleged cooperative bank scam and former Minister Praful Patel in another case.
Last Thursday, when the BJP-Shiv Sena alliance got a clear mandate, Mr. Pawar had ruled put the possibility of trying for an alternative.
At a press conference in Mumbai, the NCP chief said that the people had given his party and his ally, the Congress, the mandate to sit in the Opposition.
However, with no government in sight six days after the results and growing differences between the BJP and the Sena over the issue of rotating the Chief Minister’s post, there are many within the Congress who want Mr. Pawar to revisit his position.
On Wednesday, the Sena is reported to have cancelled a meeting with the BJP on government formation.
“Our mandate was to have a strong and responsible Opposition and we are honouring it,”NCP’s Rajya Sabha MP Majeed Memon told The Hindu indicating that the NCP would not rethink the party’s position.
“We had a meeting of our newly elected MLAs and we have already elected the leader who would be the Leader of the Opposition,” Mr. Memon added.
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