Sena climbs down, BJP signals ready to give it Dy CM post, 13-15 berths in govt

MUMBAI : Engaged in a tussle over power sharing in Maharashtra for about a week now, both the BJP and Shiv Sena signalled a softening of stand on Wednesday. While the BJP is learnt to have offered the Deputy Chief Minister’s post along with 13 to 15 ministerial berths, the Shiv Sena, which has been aggressively pushing for rotational chief ministership, signalled a climbdown.

Responding to a question on government formation, Sena president Uddhav Thackeray said, “We will try to get whatever is best possible”.

Sena MP Sanjay Raut, who had earlier voiced his party’s demand for equal share in power, said it was necessary for the party to stay in the BJP-led alliance in the larger interest of Maharashtra, but without compromising on “respect”. “Individuals are not important but the state’s interest is important. Decisions need to be taken in a calm manner and keeping in mind the state’s interest,” he said.

Highly placed sources in the BJP said that besides the Deputy Chief Minister’s post, the Shiv Sena has been offered important portfolios like the public works department (PWD), rural development, industries and health.

The BJP, however, has made it clear that it will not part with the Chief Minister’s post. It is also unwilling to give the home, urban development, revenue and finance departments. However, BJP sources said that if the Sena makes it a prestige issue, BJP may yield one of the three crucial portfolios — revenue, agriculture or irrigation.

“The BJP and Sena will form the government. The process of dialogue is underway. Everything will be resolved soon,” Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavissaid, after being re-elected as leader of the BJP legislature party on Wednesday.

BJP president Amit Shah, who is likely to arrive in Mumbai next week, is expected to meet Thackeray.

“We have categorically conveyed to the Sena that 50:50 power sharing would be honoured through crucial portfolios. And it should not be weighed in terms of the CM’s post or an equal number of berths,” said a senior BJP leader who did not want to be named.

The BJP, according to sources, is not ruling out conceding 13-15 ministerial posts to the Sena. This will leave the BJP with 27-29 posts.

BJP mediators said Sena leaders have assured that the party will set aside its demand for the CM’s post, if the BJP “gives them crucial portfolios honourably”.

“Shiv Sena also realises that it cannot put pressure beyond a point. After all, the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation has a Sena-BJP coalition. Despite its 82 seats, the BJP has given full power to the Sena, which has just 84 seats. The BJP can pull the plug any time,” said a senior BJP leader.

In the 288-member Maharashtra Assembly, the BJP has won 105 seats while the Sena has won 56.