NCP calls Sena, Cong for 4pm meeting as names of CM frontrunners emerge

Mumbai: Sanjay Raut and Arvind Sawant have emerged as frontrunners for the post of chief minister, hours after the former said that Shiv Sena will get a full five-year term as CM. Sources in the party said that Uddhav Thackeray is not keen on holding the post, following which the two names were suggested. “As party president, Thackeray would like to sit out and hold direct discussions with Sharad Pawar and Sonia Gandhi, instead of becoming the CM and then reporting to them,” the source said, adding that another name that came up was of Eknath Shinde who refused to take up the responsibility.

Talking to reporters, Raut reiterated that his party will get the Maharashtra CM’s post when the three-party alliance with Congress and NCP assumes power. “The time for offers has ended,” Raut said, when asked about reports that the BJP had agreed to share the CM’s post with the Sena.

In a late night development, Shiv Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray and his MLA-son Aaditya met NCP president Sharad Pawar in over an hour-long meeting that took place at Nationalist Congress Party supremo’s residence ‘Silver Oak’ in South Mumbai. The sudden meeting comes as the Shiv Sena continues its effort form government in Maharashtra with the support of the NCP and the Congress.

The Thackerays called on Pawar, a Rajya Sabha MP, after he arrived here from New Delhi in the evening. The Shiv Sena’s Rajya Sabha member Sanjay Raut was also present at the meeting. However, no Congress leader was present at the meeting. “Since it was a meeting between top leaders, only they will know what transpired there. But the discussion is likely to have revolved around giving final touches to sharing of posts in the government being planned to be formed,” an NCP leader said.

The meeting took place on a day when Congress leader Prithviraj Chavan said in New Delhi that his party and the NCP have “complete unanimity” on all issues concerning government formation in Maharashtra and will now hold talks with the Shiv Sena to “finalise the architecture of the alliance”.

The discussions will now move to Mumbai where the Congress and the NCP will hold deliberations with their other pre-poll allies — Peasants Workers Party, Samajwadi Party, Swabhimani Paksh and CPI(M) — and then with the Sena, Chavan told reporters after another round of talks between senior leaders of his party and the NCP in the national capital.

Sources said the three parties are likely to make a formal announcement on Friday about joining hands to take a shot at power in the state. Uddhav Thackeray will address a meeting of party MLAs and senior leaders on Friday during which he is expected to deliberate on the party’s line of action in the backdrop of the three main non-BJP parties making efforts to form government in Maharashtra, a party leader said.

A senior NCP leader said a government is likely to be formed before the first phase of the Jharkhand polls scheduled on November 30. NCP sources said the chief minister’s post is most likely to be on a rotational basis, with the first half to be given to the Shiv Sena and the latter to the Nationalist Congress Party.

The Congress is likely to have the deputy chief minister’s post for the full five-year term, they said. However, Congress sources asserted that the issue of rotational chief ministership did not come up during the discussion with the NCP. The two parties will have another round of meeting on Thursday to give final touches to the contours of the alliance.

There will be discussions between the Shiv Sena and the Congress-NCP alliance in Mumbai on Friday, following which an announcement on government formation will be made.

Earlier, speaking to reporters after the nearly four-hour-long meeting at NCP supremo Sharad Pawar’s residence here, both Chavan and Malik said the current spell of President’s rule in the state has brought administration to a standstill, and the two parties are confident of ending this.

The announcement, which is likely to end whatever little doubt remained over whether the Congress will back the Sena or not amid reports of opposition to such an alliance by a section of its leaders, came a day after Pawar met Congress president Sonia Gandhi. Senior Congress leaders Ahmad Patel and Mallikarjun Kharge were part of the deliberations held at Pawar’s residence.