Mumbai/Nagpur: Union Road Transport Minister Nitin Gadkari once again denied on Tuesday that he was in the race to become Maharashtra chief minister.
Hours after state BJP leaders demanded that Gadkari should take over the reins in Maharashtra when the new government is formed, Gadkari told reporters in Nagpur, “I am happy in Delhi... am holding an important responsibility here.”
The minister said he was asked to come to Delhi when he didn't want to.
“I will stand by the candidate whom party chooses for the CM's post,” Gadkari stated.
He also said that talks were on with Shiv Sena over government formation and he was hopeful of a positive outcome.
The minister's remarks came even as a group of newly-elected party MLAs from Vidarbha region today assembled outside his residence in Mahal area of Nagpur and raised slogans hailing his leadership.
Earlier today, BJP MLA and former state unit president Sudhir Mungantiwar said that he and several other state leaders want Gadkari to be appointed as the chief minister of Maharashtra.
"State BJP leaders feel that Nitin Gadkariji should come back to the state politics and take up the position of the CM of Maharashtra. He has a lot of administrative experience behind him which makes him an ideal candidate," said Mungantiwar, who is also a member of the state BJP core committee.
Mungantiwar further said he will request Gadkari to take up the post.
"We are surprised that Gadkari has said that he doesn't want to be in the state. We all demand, in fact, the party here in Maharashtra wants Gadkari to be CM," he added.
Gadkari is not keen on returning to state politics and has said before many times that he was happy in Delhi.
“I am not in the race to become the chief minister of Maharashtra,” Gadkari had said earlier as well.
BJP president Amit Shah's meeting yesterday with Gadkari had raised speculation that the Union Minister was in the CM's race but it appeared to be ruled out by party insiders.
The demand came even as BJP's Maharashtra chief Devendra Fadnavis emerged as the frontrunner for the CM's post overcoming challenge from other veterans including Eknath Khadse and Vinod Tawde.
Gadkari had earlier in the day met Finance Minister Arun Jaitley at the latter's residence and spent about half an hour with him to discuss the party's strategy ahead.
He later arrived in Nagpur to hold discussions with the RSS top brass on the BJP options ahead. RSS is keen that the saffron forces should united but have left it to the BJP to decide.
Home Minister Rajnath Singh, who as and party observer was expected to arrive in Mumbai along with senior colleague JP Nadda to crown the next Maharashtra chief minister, today postponed his visit for the second time in a row and will now come down next week.
"I am not going today. I may go to Mumbai after Diwali," Rajnath Singh told media persons in New Delhi, extending the nail-biting suspense in the state since the BJP emerged as the single-largest party in the 13th Assembly Elections but fell short of simple majority.
The state BJP - already assured of unconditional external support from the Nationalist Congress Party - has decided to continue its independent efforts to cobble up at least a minority government.
It has contacted over a dozen of the 18 independents or newly-elected legislators from small and regional parties who have got single-digit representation in the new House.
Senior party leaders are claiming that with the support of these independents and smaller or regional parties, the BJP could stake claim to form a minority government.
BJP sources also say that later, with the support of the NCP and the Bahujan Vikas Aghadi`s three legislators, it would easily sail through the vote-of-confidence in the legislature.
On its part, the Shiv Sena has also adopted a `wait-and-watch` attitude while expressing readiness to sit in the opposition if the BJP failed to come up with an acceptable proposal for alliance.
In the 288-member Assembly, the BJP and allies secured 123 seats, the Shiv Sena got 63, Congress managed 42, the NCP won 41 and the remaining seats were bagged by either independents or smaller and regional parties. A party needs 145 seats for simple majority in the state Assembly.
(With agency inputs)