The unseemly situation has been created by the BJP's inability to win an absolute majority in the 288-member state assembly. Instead, the saffron party won 122 seats and its ally Rashtriya Samaj Paksha got one. The NCP got 41 and the BJP's former ally, the Shiv Sena, bagged 63.
As election results were announced on Sunday, it seemed inevitable that the BJP would have to enter negotiations with the Shiv Sena about forming a joint government. But the NCP pulled off a surprise by announcing that it would be willing to support a BJP government, without entering into a coalition.
It still isn't clear whether the BJP will hook up with Sharad Pawar & Co after going ballistic on the NCP for the alleged scams in which its leaders were named. While many in the BJP are happy that the offer will ensure that they can stand up to the Shiv Sena if it acts tough with its demands, there is no denying the discomfiture of most state BJP veterans who had aggressively damned the NCP recently.
The BJP is in no mood to give in too much to its old ally. It says it has won the lion’s share in the polls so while a potential government would be a joint one, the Sena can't make disproportionate demands. On the other hand, the Sena feels betrayed by the BJP after having stood by the party for 25 years.
According to the party insiders, what’s awaiting a resolution is the seat-sharing formula. How many and which ministerial berths should the Sena should be given for the alliance? An equation similar to the one followed in 1995, the last time the two parties won an election in the state, is unacceptable to the BJP. At that time, the BJP had won 65 seats while the Sena secured 73. In 2014, things have changed dramatically. The BJP has bagged 122 and the Sena just 63.
So who will blink first? Uddhav Thackeray is aware of the BJP’s predicament and will not give in easily. But the BJP is in no tearing hurry to occupy office. In fact it's ready to wait till after Diwali for the government-formation. As for the NCP, its leaders are sitting pretty, having scored what could be a tactical victory. Even if the BJP doesn’t ally with the NCP, the move to offer unconditional support could make the new chief minister think twice before acting against the former deputy chief minister Ajit Pawar, accused of accepted bribes in a scandal about irrigation systems, and other NCP leaders.
It’s a maha-mess, for sure.
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