Sena's Sawant quits Modi ministry as party eyes tie-up with NCP in Maharashtra

Sena's Sawant quits Modi ministry as party eyes tie-up with NCP in Maharashtra
Shiv Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray with Shiv Sena's sole representative in the Cabinet, Union Minister for Heavy Industries Arvind Sawant. File photo: Facebook/Arvind Sawant
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New Delhi/Mumbai: Shiv Sena leader Arvind Sawant on Monday announced his resignation from the Union cabinet, saying there is no trust left and it would not be proper to continue as minister when a new government is being formed in Maharashtra.

Addressing a press conference, Sawant accused the BJP of reneging on its promise to the Sena for equal division of seats and power and forcing the Uddhav Thackeray-led party to snap ties.

He alleged that the BJP was resorting to "lies" by denying the agreement reached between the leaders of the two allies before the assembly elections.

"They have also hurt my party by lying. Since there is no trust left, I have decided to resign," Sawant told reporters.

He also accused the BJP of hurting the sentiments of the Shiv Sena and of the Thackeray family.

"I have resigned as Union minister. I have sent my resignation to Prime Minister Narendra Modi," the Shiv Sena leader said and displayed his letter resigning as Heavy Industries minister.

Asked if the Sena has snapped its ties with the BJP, he said, "When I have resigned, you can understand what it means."

"The BJP had agreed with Sena to equal division of seats and power but it has now rejected this," Sawant said.

Sawant also said a new government was in the process of being formed in Maharashtra and it was not proper for him to remain in the Union cabinet and hence he was resigning.

"In such an atmosphere, it is not proper on my part and for the sake of morality to continue as minister in the Union government," he said.  

In a series of tweets, Sawant said that prior to the Lok Sabha election, a formula was decided on power-sharing between the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-Sena.

"It was acceptable to both sides, but by rejecting it, an attempt is made to portray the Sena as a liar. This is shocking and a blot on the state's self-respect ('swabhiman')," Sawant said.

Sawant had tweeted his plans after relations between the BJP and Sena were on the verge of snapping over the deadlock in forming the Maharashtra government since the past 18 days.

The state's BJP unit on Sunday informed Governor B S Koshyari that it could not form the government though it's pre-polls alliance had secured a full majority.

Now, the Governor has invited the second largest party, Shiv Sena to form the government and submit its reply by Monday evening.

The Sena, the second-largest party in the 288-member House with 56 MLAs after the BJP (105), has time till 7:30pm on November 11, to stake the claim.

While the Sena has been making efforts to reach out to the NCP and the Congress, the Sharad Pawar-led party had said the Sena will have to walk out of the NDA first.

Congress sources said the party legislators from Maharashtra were meeting in Jaipur with senior leaders to discuss the possibility of supporting a Sena-led government.

A close aide of a senior Congress leader here said the MLAs will return to Mumbai from Jaipur Monday afternoon after which the party may announce its stand on the political impasse.

Meanwhile, the Maharashtra BJP core committee headed by caretaker Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis will also meet in Mumbai on Monday.

Governor Koshyari has asked Sena legislative party leader Eknath Shinde to "indicate willingness and ability" of the party to form government, a Raj Bhavan statement said.

After the governor's communication, Sena MLAs, staying at a suburban hotel in Mumbai, went into a huddle. They later moved to Matoshree, the Bandra residence of the party chief Uddhav Thackeray, for another meeting.

The fast-paced developments seem to have increased the bargaining power of opposition Congress and NCP, as the Sena, which has 56 MLAs, is far away from the halfway mark of 145.

A day after the governor asked the BJP to indicate its willingness and ability to form government, Fadnavis informed him about the party's inability to do so due to lack of enough numbers.

The role of the Congress (44 MLAS) and the NCP (54 MLAs) is crucial now.

If the Sena decides to form a government with the support of Opposition parties, the collective strength of all the three parties will go up to 154 in the House, just above the halfway mark.

While the Congress refused to open its cards, the NCP made it clear that the Sena would have to break away from the NDA before the Sharad Pawar-led party can think of lending support to the Uddhav Thackeray's party.

However, Sena leader Sanjay Raut appeared unfazed and said his party would install its chief minister at any cost.

Sharing of power, especially the post of the CM on a rotational basis, was the bone of contention between the Sena and the BJP for the last 16 days, which resulted into a deadlock.

Fadnavis had rejected Thackeray's claims that BJP chief Amit Shah was agreed to his demand for a rotational chief ministership ahead of Lok Sabha polls.

Announcing the party's decision to not form government on Sunday evening, state BJP chief Chandrakant Patil accused the Thackeray-led party of "disrespecting" the popular mandate secured by the NDA in recent assembly polls.

The governor had on Saturday invited the BJP to form government by virtue of it being the single largest party.

In fact, Patil wished "good luck" to the Sena to go ahead and form a government with the support of the Congress and the NCP.

"We contested together but the Sena does not want to come with us to form government. The mandate of the people of Maharashtra was for the BJP-Shiv Sena alliance. Sena has, however, disrespected the mandate, hence we have decided to not stake claim to form government. We have informed our decision to governor Bhagat Singh Koshyari," Patil told reporters outside Raj Bhavan.

"If the Sena wants to form the government with the help of the Congress and the NCP, we wish them good luck," he said after the BJP held meetings of its core committee.

Earlier in the day, Raut appeared sending feelers to the Congress and the NCP.

When a reporter pointed out that the Sena was not criticising the opposition NCP in the wake of a possible alliance between the two parties, Raut said, "We have not criticised the BJP either. The election campaign is over and things said during the campaign are irrelevant."

Asked if the Congress will support the Shiv Sena to form government, Raut said the Sonia Gandhi-led party is "not enemy of Maharashtra".

"If Congress leaders have taken any decision to ensure a stable government in Maharashtra, we welcome it," he said.

Every political party has differences with the other party. Like, the Sena and BJP differ on the issue of border dispute between Maharashtra and Karnataka over Belagavi (Belgaum) district, Raut said.

After the BJP's announcement, he said, "Maharashtra will have Senas chief minister at any cost. Uddhav Thackeray on Sunday informed the party MLAs that Sena will have its chief minister."

"How will BJP have its chief minister when they are not staking a claim to form government," Raut added.

As the focus shifting to the Sena camp, senior Congress leader Ashok Chavan said the party didn't want President's rule in Maharashtra and that the MLAs, in Jaipur, will discuss the issue.

"We will discuss the issue here and will seek advice of the party high-command on the future political stand. The party doesn't want presidents rule in the state," Chavan told reporters.

He said he was in favour of forming a stable government in Maharashtra.

Another Congress leader Milind Deora said the governor should invite NCP-Congress alliance to form government, a proposal opposed by another leader Sanjay Nirupam.

NCP chief spokesperson Nawab Malik told reporters on Sunday that the Sena needs to first exit from the NDA as it has one cabinet post (in the Narendra Modi government).

"Unless it leaves the NDA, we will wait and watch the developments," he said.

South Mumbai Sena Lok Sabha MP Arvind Sawant is a Union minister.

Mailk said, "We do not have enough numbers but we also do not want Presidents rule in Maharashtra." He added his party had not received any proposal from the Sena.

"If the Sena comes with a proposal, there will be some conditions from our side on which Sena will have to agree on. Sena leader Sanjay Raut has been stressing on the party having the CMs post. If they need support of Congress and NCP, they will have to make their stand clear on sharing power (with BJP) in Delhi," Malik said.

NCP MLAs will meet on November 12 after which a final decision will be taken, he added.

(With inputs from IANS and PTI)

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