Millennium Post

NCP gets invite; Cong undecided

NCP gets invite; Cong undecided

Mumbai: The NCP, which is the third-largest party in Maharashtra, on Monday night got an invite from Governor Bhagat Singh Koshyari asking it to express "willingness and ability to form a government", shortly after the Shiv Sena failed to submit the "requisite letter of support".

The Sena is trying to form a non-BJP government in the state with the support of the Congress and the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP). On Monday night, the Uddhav Thackeray- led party could not submit the requisite letter of support to the governor.

The Congress did not rule out support to the Sena but said in a noncommittal statement: "The Congress president has spoken to Sharad Pawar. The party will have further discussions with NCP." Party leader Prithviraj Chauhan said.

The NCP patriarch led the attempts to forge the unlikely coalition between parties that have been fierce enemies for years. Pawar met with Uddhav Thackeray at a hotel in the afternoon before the Sena chief's seven-minute phone call with Sonia Gandhi.

With 54 MLAs, the NCP is the third-largest party after the BJP (105) and the Shiv Sena (56) in the 288-member House where the halfway mark in 145. Congress has 44 MLAs.

After meeting the Governor, state unit NCP president Jayant Patil said the party would discuss the issue with its ally, the Congress, and get back to the Governor by or before 8:30 pm on Tuesday.

"As per the procedure, the Governor has given us a letter being the third-largest party in the state of Maharashtra, and therefore, we have suggested to him that we will have to talk to our alliance partner. We have assured him that we will get back to him as early as possible," Patil told reporters.

A Raj Bhavan statement said: "The Governor of Maharashtra Bhagat Singh Koshyari Monday asked the leader of elected members of the third-largest party, the Nationalist Congress Party, Ajit Pawar to indicate the willingness and ability of his party to form the government in Maharashtra."

It said that despite the passage of 16 days after assembly elections, no single party or alliance of parties had come forward with a requisite letter of support from alliance partners to form the government.

Speaking to reporters before he went to meet the Governor, NCP legislative party leader Ajit Pawar said, "At 8:30 pm (on Monday), we got a call from the Governor. He has invited me as the legislature party leader. I do not know for what reason I have been invited."

NCP chief spokesperson Nawab Malik said, "We will discuss with the Congress...we will take a final decision (on steps to be taken) Tuesday."

After meeting the Governor, senior leaders Patil, Ajit Pawar, Chhagan Bhujbal and Dhananjay Munde reached party chief Sharad Pawar's residence to discuss the future strategy.

The Sena on Monday night suffered a setback in its efforts to cobble up a non-BJP government, with the Congress at the last moment announcing its decision to hold more talks with ally NCP on supporting the saffron party.

"The Sena could not submit the requisite letter of support. The Sena further submitted a letter requesting three- day extension of the deadline (which ended 7.30 pm on Monday) for providing the letter of support.

"The governor expressed his inability to give any further extension," the statement added.

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