No Shiv Sena leader to watch the lotus bloom

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NewZNew (New Delhi/Mumbai)  : The Devendra Fadnavis led Bharatiya Janata Party team would be sworn in at a mega event at the Wankhede Stadium, Mumbai, and the occasion would mark its place in history in the presence of the high and mighty led by the man who made it all possible — prime minister Narendra Modi.

But the party’s erstwhile saffron ally Shiv Sena would remain absent from the event. This absence of common courtesy comes after a firm assertion by the BJP general secretary Rajiv Pratap Rudy that no Sena minister would be sworn in. The hint that talks between the two saffron parties were on about the Shiv Sena joining the government did little to take away the rancour from the occasion.

Still in a sour mood, the Sena, which has been blowing hot and cold over joining the new government, complained about the “constant humiliation” by the BJP and said it has not gone down well with its MLAs. “Since our MLAs feel that BJP did not give us due respect, they are demanding why should we attend the oath-taking ceremony?” Sena MP Vinayak Raut told reporters after a meeting with party president Uddhav Thackeray.

Shiv Sena leaders were scheduled to meet at Matoshree in the evening to decide on the nitty-gritty of joining the government. But much before that, Rudy made it clear that no Shiv Sena MLA is likely to be sworn in, which angered the Sena leaders and the scheduled meeting was cancelled, sources close to the developments told the NewZNew.

It is apparent that the first six months of the Fadnavis government would be a crucial period in so far as deciding the future course of politics in the state is concerned. Either the Shiv Sena would once and for all surrender to the BJP, or the tussle would enter all the levels down to the local bodies. The current state of ambivalence has to yield to some crystallisation of options.

It is understood that the BJP and the Sena were very close to an agreement, but once again talks got bogged down in differences over the number of ministers. Shiv Sena is learnt to have sent a proposal to BJP wherein they demanded 14 ministerial berths with 7 cabinet portfolios. They also wanted 2 of their ministers to be sworn in along with Fadnavis on Friday. But the BJP was not prepared for this, which derailed the talks.

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Some sources also said that the Shiv Sena has now made up its mind to sit in the opposition and the BJP would probably have to run the government with NCP crutches. None of Sena MLAs is likely to attend the swearing in ceremony and Shiv Sena Chief Uddhav Thackeray too might stay away. However, a junior leader might be sent to represent the party, sources said.

There were conflicting signals from BJP leader Sudhir Mungantiwar, who told NewZNew that Devendra Fadnavis himself has invited Shiv Sena Chief Uddhav Thackeray for the ceremony. “They spoke yesterday for quite some time and exchanged pleasantries. There was no bitterness,” Mungantiwar said. Meanwhile, there was no official word on the size of the cabinet to be sworn in along with Fadnavis. Nor was there any clue to who is likely to be inducted. However, the state BJP’s core committee members — Eknath Khadse, Vinod Tawde, Pankaja Munde-Palwe and Sudhir Mungantiwar — are expected to be sworn in along with one or two more BJP MLAs.

Chief Minister-elect Devendra Fadnavis on Thursday went to the official residence of the union transport minister Nitin Gadkari, a fellow Nagpurian and his senior in the party hierarchy. There was a widely publicised photo-op. Gadkari was a hot contender for the post with the support of the legislators but the party’s decision prevailed and Fadnavis got the nod. The meeting with political undertones was described as a courtesy call, where Fadnavis sought the elder leader’s blessings.