In a sudden move, the Shiv Sena announced its decision to sit in the opposition in Maharashtra assembly and not join the minority BJP government headed by Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis.
“We have sent a letter signed by Shiv Sena president Uddhav Thackeray to this effect to the legislature secretariat. In the letter we have requested that the name of Sena legislature party leader Eknath Shinde should be announced as leader of opposition at the earliest,” said party spokesperson Neelam Gorhe.
She added that the Sena’s claim to the leader of opposition post was by virtue of its position as the second largest party with 63 legislators in the 287-member house, with the Congress having 42 and the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) 41 members.
The party’s decision came in the wake of the Shiv Sena chief’s two-day ultimatum Sunday to the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) to declare that it would not seek the NCP’s support to save his minority government in the crucial vote of confidence scheduled here Wednesday.
Earlier in the day, Gorhe indicated the party’s mood on the issue when she said that talks with the BJP on power-sharing and other pending matters have been stalled.
The Sena’s 63 members came to the Vidhan Bhavan wearing traditional Maharashtrian orange turbans, raising slogans and symbolically occupied the opposition benches in the assembly.
The first two days of the special three-day session of the assembly are to be devoted to the members being administered oath.
The move was apparently triggered by NCP president Sharad Pawar’s reiteration of his party’s “unconditional external support” to the BJP “in the interest of political stability” in the state and to avoid fresh elections.
The Sena decision brings down the curtain on nearly two months of bitter acrimony between the two allies of 25 years which resulted in snapping of ties Sep 25, fighting the elections separately. The Sena boycotted the cabinet expansion of Prime Minister Narendra Modi in New Delhi and also withdrew its nominee at the last minute Sunday.