MUMBAI: A psychological tug-of-war is currently underway between the prospective allies, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the Shiv Sena, to woo the 13 elected Independents, including a few rebels, in order to boost their respective bargaining power before the nitty-gritty of government formation gets underway.
While some BJP office-bearers claimed to have secured the support of "all the Independents", boosting their effective strength to 118, compared to 122 in 2014, the Shiv Sena has also claimed that two Independents have so far extended their support to it and efforts were on to get more.
In the 288-member Maharashtra Assembly, the half-way mark is 144, which no party can achieve even if they get the support of all the 13 Independent MLAs. Presently, the BJP has secured the support of two independents, including Ravi Rana (Badnera), who had supported the government earlier. The Sena has also got support from at least two independents - Ashish N. Jaiswal (Ramtek), and Narendra B. Bhondekar (Bhandara).
Both parties claim they are in touch with "many more independents" and are confident of bagging their endorsement, though according to the current arithmetic of election results, Independents do not hold the key to government formation.
As per the official figures of the Election Commission, the BJP has got 105 MLAs, and the Sena 56, taking their combined tally to 161. Besides, the Opposition Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) has got 54 MLAs and the Congress stands in the fourth position with 44 MLAs, plus their allies and other smaller parties, totalling 113.
The newly-elected Independents are: Manjula T. Gavit (Sakri), Chandrakant N. Patil (Muktainagar), Ravi Rana (Badnera), Ashish N. Jaiswal (Ramtek), Narendra B. Bhondekar (Bhandara), Vinod Agrawal (Gondiya), Kishor G. Jorgewar (Chandrapur), Geeta B. Jain (Mira-Bhayander), Mahesh Baldi (Uran), Sanjay V. Shinde (Karmala), Rajendra V. Raut (Barshi), Prakashanna Awade (Ichalkaranji) and Rajendra S. Patil-Yadravkar (Shirol).
"Hoping to hug and forgive all its former rebels who are now elected Independents, the BJP is attempting to create extra numbers to scuttle the 50:50 formula agreed upon earlier," a senior Sena leader said.
Meanwhile, its ally Republican Party of India-A President and Union Minister Ramdas Athawale has made a fresh appeal to both Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis and Sena President Uddhav Thackeray to finalise the government formation quickly.
"They have already fought the elections in alliance, the public mandate is in their favour and they have secured a full majority. There is no reason for any uncertainty now and the process of government formation must be completed as soon as possible," Athawale told media persons.
Earlier on Monday, political tongues set wagging when Fadnavis and Sena minister Diwakar Raote separately called on Governor B.S. Koshyari at the Raj Bhavan to convey their Diwali greetings.
Fadnavis also said that he has briefed the Governor on the current post-polls political scenario in the state.