IMAGE: Nationalist Congress Party Chief Sharad Pawar addresses the media during a press conference, in Nagpur, on Friday. Photograph: PTI Photo
The first-ever Shiv Sena-Nationalist Congress Party-Congress alliance in Maharashtra appears to be taking definitive shape with Sharad Pawar on Friday announcing the prospective government will complete five-year term and provide a development-oriented administration.
The three-party coalition, a new experiment in Maharashtra involving outfits with diverse ideologies, will be led by the Sena, leaders in the Uddhav Thackeray-party and the NCP said, settling the contentious leadership issue that resulted in the unraveling of the saffron alliance.
The three parties have already prepared a draft common minimum programme (CMP) that will guide their fledgling coalition’s agenda in the state, where politics has broadly revolved around Bharatiya Janata Party-Sena and Congress-NCP blocs in the last two decades.
NCP chief Sharad Pawar said a Shiv Sena-NCP-Congress government will be formed and it will complete five-year term as he ruled out the possibility of mid-term polls in the state which is currently under Presidents rule.
Speaking to reporters in Nagpur, Pawar said the three parties want to form a stable government which will be development-oriented.
There is no possibility of mid-term polls. This government will be formed and it will complete five years. We all will ensure this government runs for five years, Pawar said.
Speaking in Mumbai, Pawar’s colleague and NCP chief spokesman Nawab Malik said the chief minister’s post will go to the Shiv Sena.
“The chief minister will be from the Shiv Sena. It walked away from the ‘Mahayuti’ (grand alliance) on the issue of the chief minister’s post.
“It is our responsibility to respect its sentiment,” Malik said.
At a meeting in Mumbai on Thursday, leaders of the Congress, the NCP and the Sena prepared the draft CMP, which will be forwarded for approval to top leaders of the three parties.
Talking to reporters in Mumbai, Sena spokesman Sanjay Raut said Maharashtra’s next government will be led by his party and the CMP will in the ‘state’s interest’.
The Uddhav Thackeray-headed saffron party will lead the government in Maharashtra for the next ’25 years’ and not just five years, claimed Raut.
The Rajya Sabha MP was responding to questions on whether his party will share the chief minister’s post with the NCP and the Congress.
“Talks are on with the Congress and the NCP to work out a common minimum programme which will be in the interest of the state and its people,” he said.
“Whether it is a single party government or an alliance, an agenda for governance is necessary. There are infrastructure projects to be taken forward, (and issues
related to) drought, unseasonal rains (are to be tackled).
“Those coming with us are experienced administrators. We will benefit from their experience,” he said.
Regarding alliance with the Congress, the Sena’s political rival till recently, Raut said leaders of the country’s oldest party have contributed to freedom struggle as well as development of Maharashtra.
Asked if the Sena, post tie-up with the Congress-NCP, will give up its demand for the Bharat Ratna for Hindutva ideologue Veer Savarkar and accept Muslim reservation, Raut evaded a direct reply and said, “We know the source of such speculation.”
Asked how the Sena, a party identified with Hindutva politics and ‘anti-Congressism’, will adjust with a non-ideological partner like the Congress,he said, “What is ideology? We are working on a common minimum programme for the state’s welfare.
“Vajpayee (BJP stalwart and ex-PM Atal Bihari Vajpayee) headed an alliance of parties who came together on a common minimum programme. In Maharashtra, Sharad Pawar had led a Progressive Democratic Front (PDF) government (1978-80) of which the Jan Sangh, the BJP’s earlier avatar, was a part.”
“There have been instances earlier where parties of different ideologies have come together,” he said, justifying the Sena’s efforts to cobble up a ruling coalition with the Congress and the NCP, against whom the Sena fought the last month’s assembly polls.
The draft CMP focuses on farmers and measures to tackle unemployment, a senior Congress leader said in Mumbai.
Talking to PTI, the leader, who did not wish to be named, said, “Inclusive development and justice to all sections of the society is the criteria on which we will work if the CMP is approved by the leadership of all three parties.”
Pawar is expected to meet Congress president Sonia Gandhi on November 17 in New Delhi where a final decision on government formation is likely to be taken.
The Sena reached out to the Congress-NCP combine for government formation after its demand for sharing the chief minister’s post and equal distribution of portfolios was rejected by the BJP, its pre-poll ally.
The BJP and the Sena, which fought the October 21 polls in alliance, secured a comfortable majority by winning 105 and 56 seats, respectively, in the 288-member assembly, where the majority mark is 145.
The Congress and the NCP, pre-poll allies, won 44 and 54 seats, respectively.
President’s rule was imposed in the state on Tuesday after Governor Bhagat Singh Koshyari sent a report to the Centre, stating that formation of a stable government was impossible in the current political situation.
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