New Delhi / Congress meet held today at Sonia Gandhi’s residence; NRC, Maharashtra top agenda

Hindustan Times : Nov 21, 2019, 11:27 AM
Senior leaders of the Congress is meeting in New Delhi on Thursday over the issue of government formation in Maharashtra after a series of talks with the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) and Shiv Sena to thrash out the contours of the power-sharing in the politically-crucial western state on Wednesday.

KC Venugopal, Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury, Ambika Soni, Ahmed Patel, AK Antony and other Congress leaders reached the 10 Janpath residence of party’s interim president Sonia Gandhi for the Congress Working Committee meeting.

The party will also discuss the issues of National Register of Citizens (NRC) and electoral bonds during the CWC meeting.

The meeting comes after the Congress and Sharad Pawar’s NCP agreed in principle to form the next government in Maharashtra under a Shiv Sena chief minister.

“We are sure that there will be a stable and pro-people government in Maharashtra soon,” senior Congress leader Prithviraj Chavan had said on Wednesday, after a five-hour-long meeting of Congress and NCP leaders in New Delhi.

There will be a joint meeting of the two parties again on Thursday.

The Congress-NCP leaders are also scheduled to hold meetings with the Shiv Sena leadership on Friday in Mumbai, after which the announcements related to government formation might be made.

Significantly, this is the first time Congress has clearly indicated a three-party government will be formed in Maharashtra.

Party leaders involved in the deliberations have said that a new government in Maharashtra will be formed by the end of this month. They said the new coalition may stake the claim to form the government in the next few days.

Congress’ interim president Sonia Gandhi reportedly gave her nod to form the government led by the Sena, before the marathon meeting between Congress and NCP on Wednesday.

Central Congress leaders along with leaders from the state met Gandhi for more than half-an-hour before the meeting with NCP leaders. Besides the formal nod to form the government, Gandhi reportedly also gave her in-principle approval to the power-sharing plan and common minimum programme (CMP) draft prepared between the three parties.

The state’s top post, meanwhile, could be shared between Sena and NCP for two-and-a-half-years each.

“Although the party [NCP] has demanded the chief minister’s post for half of the tenure of the government on the grounds that the difference of seats between the two parties [Shiv Sena and NCP] is just two, in case, we don’t get it, the government will have two deputy chief ministers — one of Congress and another of the NCP,” said a NCP leader, on condition of anonymity.

“NCP chief Sharad Pawar is also pushing Shiv Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray’s name for the chief minister’s post. In that scenario, Shiv Sena may get have the top post for a full five years of the coalition government.”

Another NCP leader said the party has also suggested formula of one ministerial berth against four legislators for the three parties. Accordingly, Shiv Sena and NCP should get 15 berths, while Congress will get 12 berths.

“As Shiv Sena is likely to get the chief minister’s post, its tally in the ministerial council reach 16,” said the leader.

Maharashtra came under President’s Rule after all the parties failed to form a government in the state.

The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which emerged as the single largest party, could not stake claim to form a government after the Shiv Sena remained firm on its demand of rotating the chief minister’s post and equal sharing of cabinet berths.

The Sena parted its ways with the BJP only to explore ways to form a government. It, however, failed to prove the support of the required number of MLAs in the time given by Governor BS Koshyari.

The governor had then invited the NCP, the third-largest party, to prove its ability to form the government failing which President’s Rule was imposed in the state.