3:08 am - Sunday September 23, 2018

Shiv Sena can join government only after trust vote: Devendra Fadnavis

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MUMBAI: BJP has turned the tables on Matoshree on Wednesday, making it clear that Shiv Sena can join the new government only after it backs the trust vote on November 12, which is the new regime’s top priority now. NCP’s statement last week that it will vote in favour of BJP, and not abstain from the trust vote, has apparently emboldened BJP to dictate terms to Sena.

Just a day earlier, Matoshree had issued an ultimatum to BJP on the issue, demanding that Sena ministers must be sworn in before the trust vote is moved in the state assembly. It meant a share in power was a pre-condition for the Sena’s support.
However, chief minister Devendra Fadnavis has virtually thrown the Sena ultimatum out of the window. Talking to mediapersons after the state cabinet meeting in Mantralaya, Fadnavis said cabinet expansion will take place only after his government proves its majority on the floor of the assembly. He added that the Sena ministers to be inducted in his team would be decided in New Delhi.

The government will have to win a trust vote at the special three-day session of the Maharashtra legislative assembly starting November 10. BJP wanted Sena to make up its mind on extending support by Saturday.
Fadnavis’s move has left the Sena with hardly any choice now: it will have to either opt for the opposition benches in the assembly, or quietly fall in line, say observers. Sena will decide its next move on at a meeting of party legislators on Sunday, it is learned. Uddhav Thackeray will spell out his party’s position on the support issue and announce the name of the legislature party chief, sources said.

The Sena has for over a week been haggling with the BJP for more than 10 portfolios in the state cabinet, including the deputy chief ministership. While the BJP had summarily rejected the demand for the deputy chief minister’s post, it had hemmed and hawed over the other demands, even as back channel negotiations were under way between the two former allies.

A section in the state BJP has apprehensions about seeking NCP support, considering that the latter was in Fadnavis’s cross-hairs for a full five years, when he was the opposition leader, over corruption and financial scandals in the irrigation department. In his poll speeches in Maharashtra, Prime Minister Narendra Modi too had lashed out at NCP on the corruption issue.BJP has chosen NCP over Sena in view of the latter’s unpredictable ways of functioning, said a key state BJP functionary on Wednesday. “We think that handling Sena as a post-poll partner would be a risky proposition vis-a-vis NCP. Matoshree has this habit of making new demands. Worse, it could even pull the rug from under the government’s feet,” he said.

With 63 MLAs, Sena is the largest party after BJP in the state assembly. If it decides to sit in the opposition, the party’s legislature party leader would become the leader of the opposition.

Talk of Central berths for Sena

Reports that Prime Minister Narendra Modi is set to expand his ministerial team fuelled speculation on Wednesday that the PM may offer one Union cabinet portfolio and one minister of state berth to the Shiv Sena. However, a senior Sena functionary said there has been no official communication from the PMO on this. “We are not sure if the PM would induct two of our MPs in his ministry at this critical juncture,” he said.

The names of several senior MPs were doing the rounds in Sena circles, including those of Sanjay Raut, Bhavna Gawli, Chandrakant Khaire, Anandrao Adsul and Anil Desai. BJP is likely to induct MP Hansraj Ahir and RPI chief Ramdas Athavale in the Union cabinet.

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