The BJP is caught in a cleft-stick, thanks to a fractured mandate in the Maharashtra assembly elections.
With no political party securing clear majority, a period of political instability looms ahead in Maharashtra.
Hectic politicking has started in the Shiv Sena and Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) over the possibility of cobbling up a workable alliance – against the backdrop of the rancour developed in the past one month between the 25-year-old former allies.
Despite emerging as the single-largest party with 123 (122+1 ally) seats, the BJP faces a predicament here – it cannot form the government nor does it want to sit in opposition.
It will be entirely dependent on a demanding and belligerent opposition for pushing through any policy initiatives or major decisions, though the prime BJP chief ministerial contender Devendra Fadnavis is considered an aggressive go-getter.
While the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) provided some relief with an offer of unconditional external support, this may come with many hidden strings attached, besides growls from the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS).
One option would be to approach the Sena, but its chief Uddhav Thackeray’s body-language Sunday evening was unnerving for the harangued BJP.
For, the BJP has already said the CM post is non-negotiable, and they would not have the post of deputy CM – and, according to some speculation, it may offer the Sena at best five ministeries.
“In such a scenario, what attraction is left for us to support or join them,” wondered a senior Sena leader Monday.
As Uddhav made it clear, the BJP was free to take anybody’s help in government formation. But the Sena would not offer unsolicited support under any circumstances.
However, he kept the door ajar, saying if the BJP could guarantee upholding the state’s integrity, the Sena might consider any proposal favourably.
Sunday’s outcome shows that the numbers game has become tricky on all fronts with many distinct possibilities emerging.
The BJP needs minimum 22 seats for a simple majority – with the NCP’s 41, it crosses the minimum threshold limits easily.
In another potential scenario, if the Congress (42) and NCP (41) were to unite and offer ‘outside support’ to Sena (63), the three together achieve the magic figure of 146.
Some smaller parties and independents may also follow suit since all had one objective of keeping the “BJP out” at all costs.
The Congress is no stranger to such politics – it had tried out short-term external support several times to prop up various central governments from Charan Singh, V.P. Singh, Chandrashekhar, H.D. Deve Gowda, I.K. Gujral.
Sena sources pointed out that another option BJP would be to name Pankaja Munde as the next chief minister which has emotional overtones for both parties, and her additional credentials being the first Maharashtrian woman from the OBC to get the post.
Presently, all parties are keeping cards close to their chest and a clearer picture is likely to be seen over the next couple of days.