Three-way talks start between Shiv Sena, Congress and NCP on Maharashtra govt formation

Uddhav Thackeray

Uddhav Thackeray, the head of political party Shiv Sena, confirmed today that his party has begun official talks with the Congress and the Nationalist Congress Party on forming a government in Maharashtra.

The statement indicates that the Congress Party and the NCP have reached some kind of consensus on what to expect and demand from an alliance with the Shiv Sena.

Yesterday, Congress and NCP leaders had held a press conference in which they said that they will first talk among themselves, arrive at a mutual understanding, and only then start talks with Shiv Sena.

The apparent delay in arriving at an understanding between the three parties had led to detractors of Shiv Sena mocking Uddhav Thackeray for falling between stools.

On Monday, Thackeray broke his alliance with the Bharatiya Janata Party due to a disagreement over rotating the chief minister’s position between the two parties.

Despite this, Congress and NCP leaders who held a press conference in Mumbai after holding talks seemed non-committal about joining with the Shiv Sena to form a government — insisting that they first had to arrive at a mutual understanding before proceeding to hold talks with Shiv Sena.

The confusion had led to Uddhav Thackeray seeking reassurance from Congress’s general secretary Ahmed Patel in a separate meeting yesterday. Patel reportedly assured Thackeray that the Congress party was on-board as far as the idea of supporting a non-BJP government was concerned, and only the modalities need to be worked out.

Following this, Uddhav Thackeray was reported to be in a ‘secret meeting’ with the Congress delegation — tasked with thrashing out the finer details of the engagement — at the Trident hotel in Bandra Kurla Complex today.

Thackeray announced the official beginning of talks with the Congress and NCP as he was leaving the hotel after the meeting. He, however, did not offer any concrete response when asked how long the talks will last.

Every hour’s delay in the formation of a government increases chances of the BJP reaching out to MLAs of the Congress Party and Shiv Sena to convince them to resign.

BJP successfully formed the government in the neighboring Karnataka state, allegedly by offering inducements to elected members of Congress and JD(S) parties to relinquish their membership. The resignation of 17 MLAs of the Congress and JDS had helped depress the bench strength of the two parties, and helped BJP cross the halfway mark.

Shiv Sena, which has had an alliance with the BJP for nearly three decades, is seen as being particularly vulnerable, given the close relationships that its legislators have with BJP functionaries.

Thackeray has put up his 56 MLAs at a resort in Mumbai in an effort to stop BJP from reaching them or giving them inducements.