8:53 am - Monday July 22, 2019

Maharashtra: BJP MLAs meet today, Fadnavis likely to be named CM pick

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The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is expected to name its pick for the Maharashtra chief minister’s post on Tuesday, even as there is still no clarity over whether it will join hands with the Shiv Sena to form the government in the politically crucial state.

Media spotlight is on the meeting of newly elected BJP legislators in the afternoon at a time the state is looking forward to the clearing of the air on two key issues: the CM’s selection and the BJP’s possible alliance with the Sena.

Fadnavis ahead

Initially, Devendra Fadnavis, 44, the state BJP chief, was believed to be the front runner in the race for the CM’s job.

But, complications cropped up after nearly BJP 40 legislators from the Vidarbha region – where the party won 44 seats in the assembly elections – openly backed Union minister Gadkari for the top job. Three MLAs even offered to quit in order to pave the way for Gadkari to get elected from their constituency.

Amid the confusion, Gadkari met Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) chief Mohan Bhagwat on Saturday. There were indications the BJP’s parent body had endorsed Fadnavis as CM.

According to RSS insiders, Bhagwat wants Gadkari to remain at the Centre, and Fadnavis to take the reins of the state. The RSS chief is believed to have advised Fadnavis to take major decisions after consulting Gadkari.

However, there are still some who are not okay with Fadnavis. Senior party leader Eknath Khadse is one of them. The leader from north Maharashtra told mediapersons on Monday that he was still in the race and no name was approved in advance by the party bosses.

To ally or not to ally

The Sena has reached out to the BJP, striking a reconciliatory note in its bid to join the ministry that will take charge on October 31.

The BJP, which has 122 seats in the 288-member Maharashtra assembly, needs 23 more legislators to reach the magic figure. Speculations are rife over whether they would join hands with the Sena, which has 63 MLAs.

One BJP legislator, Govind Rathod (elected from Nanded district), died of a heart attack on Sunday night. With the support of small parties and independents, the BJP’s tally is around 135.

At present, the BJP, which is busy finalising its team of ministers, is not willing to concede the Sena’s demands for key portfolios and an assurance that Vidarbha will not get statehood.

The BJP had on Sunday told the Sena to drop all conditions and demands if it wished to participate in the government.

The 25-year-old alliance between the BJP and the Sena fell apart ahead of the elections following a dispute over the sharing of seats.

That the Sena was softening its stand was clear when its mouthpiece, Saamna, said on Monday the party would support a BJP-led government as the party had got a mandate.

“We will have to keep our political differences aside and work with the BJP chief minister for the unity of Maharashtra. We have kept ourselves together even in difficult circumstances and it will be better if it remains so,” said the editorial in Saamna, which is regarded as the view of Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray.

The Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) weakened the Sena’s case further when its boss Sharad Pawar said in an interview that his party would abstain from a trust vote, if there was one.

The NCP, which has 41 MLAs, has already extended support from outside to the BJP, which is still undecided on accepting it.

Meanwhile, some reports also said the BJP was prepared to run a minority government.

Swearing-in on Friday

On Tuesday, central observers Union home minister Rajnath Singh, party general secretary (state in-charge) JP Nadda, state poll in-charge OP Mathur and former state in-charge general secretary Rajeev Pratap Rudy will attend the meeting of the party’s newly elected MLAs to select the CM candidate.

The swearing-in ceremony has been postponed by a day to Friday (October 31) so that Prime Minister Narendra Modi can attend it. A team of 15-20 ministers is expected to take oath.

The Wankhede Stadium is being decked up for the function, expected to be attended by 30,000 to 40,000 BJP workers coming from all corners of the state.

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