Shiv Sena leader Sanjay Raut said on Saturday that the party will adhere to the “coalition dharma”, a statement that could be seen as a softening of the party’s stand on forming the government in Maharashtra with the Bharatiya Janata Party, PTI reported. The BJP had earlier this week rejected the Shiv Sena’s demand for the chief minister’s post for 2.5 years, and 50% representation in the Cabinet.

“The Sena contested the assembly elections in an alliance and we would adhere to the coalition dharma till the last moment,” Raut told reporters in Mumbai. However, he also welcomed Congress leader Hussain Dalwai’s letter to interim party chief Sonia Gandhi, recommending support for the Shiv Sena in forming the government.

“Dalwai belongs to the socialist ideology,” Raut said. “He comes from a family of progressive Muslims. We welcome his stand. But, Sena fought the elections in an alliance and we will adhere to the coalition dharma till the end.”

Raut had said on Friday that if the Shiv Sena made up its mind, it could get the required numbers to form the government in Maharashtra. On Saturday, he said: “Considering the prevailing political situation in the state, every one is talking to each other except the Sena and the BJP. The Sena did not stop talks of government formation..the talks never began.”

Raut had met Nationalist Congress Party President Sharad Pawar earlier this week, sparking speculations of a possible alliance. However, on Saturday, he downplayed the visit. “There are several issues concerning Maharashtra on which leaders of different political parties talk to each other,” he said. “Were Peoples Democratic Party and BJP in Kashmir and Telugu Desam Party and BJP in Andhra Pradesh of the same ideology?”

Asked about speculation that Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis will take oath again next week, Raut said that the governor invites the single largest party to form the government as per convention. “What is important for government formation is the support of 145 MLAs,” he said. “Whosoever has this number, we wish them well.”

The Shiv Sena leader hit out at State Finance Minister and BJP leader Sudhir Mungantiwar for asserting that President’s Rule would be declared in the state if a new government was not formed by November 8, The Quint reported. “The President is the constitutional head... He’s not in anybody’s pocket,” Raut said. “Issuing such a threat is an insult to the public mandate.”

Raut also said there was nothing wrong with Pawar’s remark that his party and the Congress would occupy the Opposition benches. However, Pawar appeared to have changed his mind on Friday, saying that the Nationalist Congress Party would think of forming an alternative alliance if BJP-Shiv Sena talks fail.

The BJP won 105 seats in the Maharashtra Assembly elections, results of which were declared on October 24. The Shiv Sena won 56 seats, the Nationalist Congress Party 54 and the Congress 44.

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