In what is called unusual by Indian political standards, no side has staked claim to form the government in Maharashtra even five days after the Assembly election results were declared.
This, as the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and its traditional ally, the Shiv Sena, are engaged in a power tussle. With neither side showing signs of blinking first, the stalemate is likely to continue in the coming days.
How the political logjam was created
While the BJP won 105 Assembly seats, the Sena won 56. Together, the ‘Maha-Yuti’ has 161 – enough to easily cross the 145 majority mark.
Opposition parties Congress and the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) won 44 and 54 seats, respectively.
Shiv Sena has had a bittersweet relationship with the BJP for the last five years as it ended up playing the second fiddle in their alliance.
While the two parties contested last week’s election together, differences over power sharing remain.
Shiv Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray has publicly stated that he wants a Shiv Sainik (Shiv Sena party worker) to become Maharashtra’s chief minister in accordance with a promise he had made to his father and Sena founder late Balasaheb Thackeray.
While the Sena chief has not suggested a timeframe for this or a Shiv Sainik becoming the chief minister this time in particular, party workers have been rooting for Uddhav’s son Aaditya to get the state’s top executive job.
Aaditya is the first member of the Thackeray family to contest and win an election. A day after he won, posters sprang up in his Assembly constituency Worli (in Mumbai) demanding he be made the chief minister.
Hours after the result became clear, the Sena chief in a press conference, reminded BJP of the ’50:50 power-sharing formula’ they agreed to before this year’s Lok Sabha polls.
Thackeray said his party had agreed to contest from lesser number of seats following BJP’s request. However, he made it clear that the Sena would not understand BJP’s problems every time.
The general interpretation of the 50:50 formula is equal power sharing and the two parties occupying the chief minister's post on rotational basis. The Sena has demanded a written assurance from the BJP that it will implement the formula.
However, incumbent CM Devendra Fadnavis on October 29 said the Shiv Sena was not promised the chief minister’s post for two-and-a-half years when the alliance was formalised in the run-up to the 2019 Lok Sabha polls.
Commenting on the issue, Fadnavis said: "I have confirmed with Amit Shah and he told me that the BJP has not given any assurance for the chief minister's post for two- and-a-half years (each for the BJP and Sena) when the alliance was formalised before the Lok Sabha polls."
After this, the Shiv Sena cancelled its scheduled talks with the BJP, reports suggest.
Keeping options open
BJP has been reluctant to give up the chief minister’s position. The Sena has said it would not settle for the deputy chief minister’s post.
The Devendra Fadnavis-led state BJP unit has claimed of having the support of many Independent Members of Legislative Assembly (MLAs). It is unclear how BJP would touch the majority mark of 145 even with the help of Independents. It is still likely to fall short as there aren’t enough Independent legislators.
At the same time, the Sena claims having the support of at least five Independent MLAs.
BJP has, however, maintained that it will "comfortably" form the government taking the Shiv Sena along with it.
Sena ups the ante
Sena leader and Rajya Sabha Member of Parliament Sanjay Raut on October 28 said his party should not be compelled by the BJP to look for an alternative to form the government and asserted there are "no saints in politics".
There have been statements from sections in the Congress-NCP combine, locally known as ‘Maha-Aghadi’, hinting that a move by the Sena to look beyond BJP for government formation may get positive feelers. These statements have, however, not been conveyed officially. NCP chief Sharad Pawar has said his party will sit in the Opposition and not attempt to form the government.
Raut said the “BJP is the single largest party at present in the state. If they can provide a majority government without the Sena's help, I welcome it."
"We will see how they do not share the post of chief minister. Both the parties agreed on 50:50 power-sharing formula. There is no need to explain it in detail," Raut said, claiming that there has been no discussion so far between the BJP and Sena on government formation.
A chapter in this tussle might turn on October 30 when BJP’s newly elected MLAs meet to elect the leader of the House.
Reports suggest that BJP National President Amit Shah could meet Uddhav Thackeray. A meeting between Shah and Uddhav Thackeray may provide a breakthrough for the saffron alliance.This story was updated to reflect latest developments.