Uddhav Thackeray, the Shiv Sena chief who is locked in a bitter tussle with alliance partner BJP, on Thursday delivered a sharp message to the BJP that he wasn’t going to back down on the demand for the chief minister’s post.
Thackeray also ordered his lawmakers into a Bandra hotel 3 km from Matoshree, the venue of Thursday’s meeting. The move to sequester Sena MLAs comes against the backdrop of concerns that the BJP could attempt to poach some of its lawmakers.
Uddhav Thackeray’s message, delivered at the meeting of Sena lawmakers, came just minutes before a team of BJP leaders is heading into a meeting with Governor Bhagat Singh Koshyari.
The BJP, which had initially suggested that it might stake claim to form government at this meeting, clarified this morning that the meeting with Governor Koshyari was only meant to update Raj Bhavan about the attempts to form government.
The BJP and Sena had contested the state elections as an alliance and won 105 and 56 seats, respectively, enough to form the government in the 288-member assembly. But the two couldn’t arrive at an agreement on the power sharing deal after the Sena insisted that BJP couldn’t keep the chief minister’s chair for eternity and demanded a written assurance that a Sena leader would be made the chief minister in the second half of the assembly’s five-year-term.
This demand was perceived to be a negotiating tactic by the BJP, initially to get a deputy chief minister’s post as well as more, and meatier, cabinet berths for the Sena.
At Thursday’s meeting, Uddhav Thackeray was determined to correct this.
“Uddhav ji told us that if he wanted to accept anything less than the chief minister’s post, why would he waste 15 days,” Sanjay Shirsat, the Sena lawmaker from Aurangabad West, told reporters.
He added that “Uddhav ji is firm on the demand for the chief minister’s post as it was decided in front of (BJP chief) Amit Shah”.
The lawmakers were, however, told to head to the hotel that is often used for party events.
Sena legislator Abdul Sattar told reporters that all legislators had been “told to stay at Rang Sharda till his (Uddhav Thackeray’s) next order”.
The party, however, emphasised that this did not mean that its lawmakers could be bought over. “There is no threat of any legislator defecting. All MLAs are loyal and have allegiance with Uddhav ji,” Abdul Sattar said.
A third lawmaker Gulabrao Patil added that the lawmakers had been told to stay at the hotel “for the next 2 days”.