Uncertainty lingers over Sena joining BJP govt in Maharashtra

 Even as BJP prepared for the inauguration of its first government in Maharashtra, Shiv Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray today went into a huddle with top party leaders to discuss the future course of action but there were no signs of the party being in the BJP-led government for now.

PTI| Updated: Oct 30, 2014, 00:01 AM IST

Mumbai: Even as BJP prepared for the inauguration of its first government in Maharashtra, Shiv Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray today went into a huddle with top party leaders to discuss the future course of action but there were no signs of the party being in the BJP-led government for now.

A top BJP leader said no talks were underway with Sena and would resume only after the new government is sworn in on Friday.

Both sides had yesterday struck a conciliatory note after state BJP chief Devendra Fadnavis was elected the Legislature Party leader who will be the chief minister.

"Discussions are on within the party. Uddhavji will take a final call (on whether to join the BJP-led ministry)," Sena spokesperson Neelam Gorhe told reporters outside Uddhav's residence 'Matoshree' where he was closeted with senior party leaders Subhash Desai, Anil Desai, Sanjay Raut, Vinayak Raut and others.

A top central BJP leader, when asked if there was any breakthrough in discussions with Sena on the latter's joining the government, said talks would resume only after the oath taking ceremony on October 31.

"No talks (with Shiv Sena) are currently underway. Our whole focus is on making October 31 a grand success. We will resume talks only post that," he told PTI, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Both parties had yesterday shown signs of a rapprochement with Shiv Sena MP and spokesman Sanjay Raut saying, "The blood group of BJP and Shiv Sena is the same."

He had rubbished media reports that Sena was demanding deputy chief minister's post and some key portfolios as pre-condition for a reunion between the former saffron allies.

BJP leadership has been insisting that Sena join the government but without any pre-conditions.

Newly-appointed BJP general secretary in-charge of the state J P Nadda too indicated that the former allies could reunite when he said, "We want that Sena come with us. It is our desire. A positive result will emerge soon."

Meanwhile, BJP sources said a "slim and trim" ministry will be sworn in on Friday.

"Ours will be a slim and trim ministry, unlike the 40 plus jumbo ministry in the previous Congress-NCP regime," a senior BJP leader said.

It is expected that around a dozen ministers will take oath, including state BJP Core Committee members Eknath Khadse, Vinod Tawde, Pankaja Munde and Sudhir Mungantiwar.

BJP president Amit Shah and Union Minister from Maharashtra Nitin Gadkari are expected to arrive here tomorrow and may discuss the probable candidates for the new ministry.

The swearing-in ceremony at Wankhede Stadium will be a lavish affair with about 40,000 guests including Prime Minister Narendra Modi, several of his Cabinet colleagues, chief ministers of BJP-ruled states, besides business leaders, actors and celebrities in attendance.

BJP sources said they have sent out invitation to Uddhav for the oath-taking ceremony.

"We have sent an invite to Uddhav Thackeray for the grand ceremony to be held on October 31. It is up to him now whether he attends the event or not," a senior BJP leader said.

Besides Thackeray, NCP chief Sharad Pawar, whose party has offered outside support to BJP, his nephew and former Deputy Chief Minister Ajit Pawar, and MNS leader Raj Thackeray have also been invited.

Uddhav had on Saturday skipped the inauguration of a renovated private hospital by Modi in the city.

Though Sena's Rajya Sabha MP Anil Desai had claimed Uddhav did not attend the function on account of 'Bhai Dooj' festival, media reports said he gave the event a miss to avoid meeting Modi.

All eyes will now be on the inauguration of the Fadnavis government on Friday where a meeting between Modi and Uddhav could set the stage for the return of a BJP-Sena coalition dispensation in Maharashtra after 15 years.

It is for the first time that such an event is being organised at Wankhede Stadium, a venue for cricket matches.

Sharad Pawar-led Mumbai Cricket Association has said it will not charge any fee for its use.

BJP has roped in noted art director Nitin Desai to design the stage decor which will have giant cutouts of lotus, the party's election symbol.

Mumbai BJP general secretary Atul Shah said the theme of the programme was inspired by former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee's statement in 1980 that he would like to see 'the lotus' bloom on city seafront.

Shah said the seating capacity of the stadium is about 40,000-45,000. "The state protocol department will send out about 2,500 invites while we will send the rest," he added.

Desai told PTI that the programme will last two hours.

"The stage, with seating capacity of 200, will be semi-circular, to align with the stadium's outline. A LED screen has been installed to ensure that everyone present gets a good view. It will be a modern and hi-tech stage which will also highlight the ancient culture of the state. There will be depiction of Shivaji Maharaj's coronation as well," he said.

Desai said he held discussions with Fadnavis and senior leaders Vinod Tawde and Ashish Shelar, and accordingly the vision of the new government will also be highlighted.