Mumbai: Giving conflicting signals, Shiv Sena on Monday staked claim to the post of Leader of Opposition in the Maharashtra Assembly but appeared open to conciliatory talks with BJP over participation in the government "whenever it comes forward".
In a sudden move a day after its chief Uddhav Thackeray served an ultimatum to BJP to come clear within two days on the issue of taking NCP's support for survival of its government, Sena submitted a letter to the Assembly Secretary asking him to accord its Legislature Party leader Eknath Shinde Leader of Opposition's status.
Hours later, Uddhav, while addressing party workers, said the decision to stake claim to LoP's post was taken because Congress wanted the position on the ground that Sena was part of the BJP-led NDA and, if that were to happen, "we would have been left nowhere".
After BJP and Sena, Congress is the third largest party in the Assembly with 42 MLAs.
"We have written a letter (to the Assembly secretary) staking claim to the Leader of Opposition's post. Congress did not want the Sena to claim this post. But do not mistake our patience for weakness. We will not allow anyone to undermine Sena's strength," Uddhav said.
He said had Sena continued negotiations with BJP over power sharing, it would have ended up "Na ghar ka na ghat ka (it would have fallen between two stools)".
"They (BJP) leaders say that talks are going on. Had we continued with these talks, we would have been left nowhere today. But we are ready to hold talks with them whenever they come forward," he said.
Earlier today, the Sena had occupied Opposition benches as the special three-day session of Maharashtra Legislative Assembly began here during which Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis will seek a trust vote as mandated by the Governor when he stakes claim to form the government.
Sena members, wearing saffron pheta (headgear) came to Legislative Assembly in a group and occupied the benches meant for Opposition, where their seating arrangement was made, in keeping with the norms for the second largest party in the 288-member House.
Before the House proceedings began at 11 am, Governor C Vidyasagar Rao administered the oath as Protem Speaker to senior legislator Jeeva Pandu Gavit, at Raj Bhavan.
Gavit then administered the oath to newly-elected members of the House. The process will continue tomorrow. On November 12, the last day of the session, election for the Speaker will be held.
Shiv Sena sources said that the party was likely to field its nominee for the post.
Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray had yesterday announced that the party will sit in Opposition if BJP accepted NCP's support to win the trust vote.
While some members invoked God before taking oath, there was a member who said "Jai Vidarbha" while there was another who said "Namo" while taking oath.
Earlier today while speaking to reporters, BJP leader Rajiv Pratap Rudy said, “We consistently tried to work along with Shiv Sena, we are still attempting the same, talks with them are on, there will certainly be a solution.”
With Agency inputs