Millennium Post

Maha placed under Prez Rule

Maha placed under Prez Rule

MUMBAI: Maharashtra was placed under President's Rule on Tuesday after a report from Governor Bhagat Singh Koshyari to the Centre that none of the three parties he had invited since Saturday - BJP, Shiv Sena and Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) - could produce enough numbers to stake claim to power even 20 days after the October 24 state election results. The Governor sent the report after the NCP spoke to him at 11 am, hours before its 8.30 pm deadline, and sought more time. President's Rule was recommended even as Congress and NCP held frantic parleys to consider support to the Shiv Sena. The NCP of Sharad Pawar received an invite Monday evening after the Shiv Sena's plea for a three-day extension was turned down.

The Shiv Sena's attempts to form a government with its bitter rivals NCP and Congress reached a dead-end Monday after a call from Congress president Sonia Gandhi gave a glimmer of hope to Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray.

At the last minute, when the Shiv Sena was to meet the Governor with letters of support, the Congress said it was undecided and would have discussions with NCP chief Sharad Pawar. "From 10 am to 7:30 pm on Monday, our leaders including Sharad Pawar, Praful Patel were waiting for (Congress's) letter," said NCP's Ajit Pawar, Sharad Pawar's nephew.

The Shiv Sena went to the Supreme Court complaining that the Governor had refused to grant it even an extra day even though the BJP was given two days to prove its numbers. Senior lawyer Kapil Sibal, a Congress leader, is representing the Sena.

Sonia Gandhi sent her top party leaders to Mumbai for discussions on government formation after speaking to Sharad Pawar on the phone Tuesday morning.

Though Congress MLAs in Maharashtra were in favour of a government with the Sena, the party leadership, especially Sonia Gandhi, is extremely uneasy at the prospect of a tie-up with an ideologically different party, a traditional enemy. The Congress also has misgivings that Sena's divorce with the BJP, its partner of nearly 30 years, may not be permanent.

The Shiv Sena Monday pulled out its only minister in Prime Minister Narendra Modi's government at the Centre to signal its exit from the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA). The Sena's separation from the BJP was the NCP's pre-condition for talks between the Maharashtra rivals for a non-BJP alliance.

The NCP says it will not take any step without its ally Congress. "Whatever decision will be taken will be taken collectively, so we were waiting for Congress response Monday, but it didn't come, we can't decide on it alone. There is no misunderstanding; we are together. The Congress is taking time because we didn't contest with the Shiv Sena," said Ajit Pawar.

The Congress says it was Sharad Pawar who wanted more time. Sources say Pawar told Sonia Gandhi Monday that there was a need to discuss the contours of support to the Sena. "NCP is just two seats short of Sena," Pawar reportedly pointed out, indicating a rethink on whether the Sena should have a full term for its chief minister.

On Saturday, as the term of the Maharashtra legislative assembly ended without any resolution, Governor Koshyari invited the BJP to form a government. But the BJP opted out of the race accusing the Sena of "betraying the people's mandate". See P5

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