Mumbai: Maharashtra plunged into a political crisis Sunday with the Shiv Sena declaring it would sit in the opposition if the minority BJP government of Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis took the NCP's help to win the trust vote scheduled November 12.
Shiv Sena president Uddhav Thackeray made the announcement at a jampacked media conference Sunday evening where he hinted that the party — which recalled its nominee for the Narendra Modi ministry's first expansion — would also rethink its stand on continuing with the National Democratic Alliance.
"We are in no hurry to join the government... If they (BJP) keep insulting and slighting us, why should we support them? We can work for the people irrespective of whether we are part of the government or outside," Thackeray said.
The announcement came amidst loud cheers and applause by several party leaders soon after a meeting of all the party MPs and legislators was held at Shiv Sena Bhavan to elect Eknath Shinde as the new legislative party leader.
The development capped a hectic day in which the party boycotted the first cabinet expansion by Prime Minister Modi and even withdrew its nominee Anil Y. Desai who was scheduled to take oath as a central minister Sunday afternoon in New Delhi, recalling him from the airport itself.
"The BJP must first clear its stand within the next couple of days. There are no compulsions on us, nor are we hankering for power. If BJP takes NCP support, then we shall sit in the opposition and vote against the government...we shall not tolerate any more humiliation," Thackeray asserted.
The Sena chief also denied that any party leaders or legislators had met Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) leaders with a proposal to change the state political equations before the three-day special session of the legislative assembly starting here Monday.
NCP president Sharad Pawar had claimed Saturday that some Shiv Sena leaders had reportedly met him a couple of times, but did not make any "proposal", embarrassing the Sena on the eve of the crucial session.
Thackeray hit out at Pawar, saying he was responsible for the downfall of the 13-day government of then prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee and now the BJP is seeking his (Pawar's) support for propping up its government in Maharashtra.
"The BJP must clarify the picture before the vote of confidence, failing which we shall sit in the opposition. We shall also reconsider our participation at the Centre," he warned.
He reiterated his oft-repeated stance that the Sena was keen to see a stable government in the state despite the fractured verdict in last month's elections.
"However, they cannot keep on doing anything they want and expect us to go on supporting them," he noted of the 25-year-old ally BJP which snapped ties with Sena Sep 25, three weeks before the assembly elections.
Fadnavis termed the Sena's decision as "regretful".
"We are pained and regret the Sena's decision. After getting an invite from PM Narendra Modi to join the central cabinet, they should have honoured it and expressed confidence in Modi's leadership," Fadnavis said in a brief reaction.
He added that if the Sena's nominee had joined the union cabinet, it would have displayed faith that all other aspects of power-sharing would be amicably settled.
The two parties have been engaged in a tug of war since the past over two months, earlier on the issue of seat-sharing for the Oct 15 elections, later fighting the elections separately, followed by a move to form a joint government in view of the fractured mandate.
The past three weeks have seen the two parties squabble over various issues like giving Sena the post of deputy chief minister, number of cabinet and ministers of state, and the choice of portfolios, besides other things.
A couple of days ago, a ray of hope appeared in the form of the BJP inviting the Sena to nominate two names for Modi's cabinet expansion Sunday.
The Sena was, however, in for a shock when the BJP unilaterally picked up former union minister Suresh P Prabhu for a cabinet berth while Sena nominee party secretary Anil Y Desai was reportedly to get a junior berth in the central cabinet.
Frantic efforts by the Sena to sort out the issue failed, and a peeved Thackeray recalled Desai minutes before the swearing-in ceremony started at Rashtrapati Bhavan.