Maharashtra Chief Minister Ashok Chavan on Saturday night held series of meetings with top Congress leaders on sharing of ministerial berths and key portfolios with its ally NCP amidst indications that the logjam over the issue could be resolved in a couple of days.
Mr. Chavan held meetings with Ahmad Patel, political secretary to Congress President Sonia Gandhi and Defence Minister A K Antony, who is also in-charge of party affairs in Maharashtra, and is understood to have discussed sharing of ministerial berths and key portfolios with NCP.
Emerging from nearly 90-minute talks with Antony shortly before midnight, Mr.Chavan told reporters that he expected the government formation to take place well in time before the term of the current Assembly expires on November 3.
“Our efforts are on to form government soon,” he said when pointed out that the term of the 11th State Assembly expires on November 3.
However, Mr. Chavan said there was no Constituitional issue if the government formation exercise continued beyond November three as this had happened after the state assembly elections in 1999 and 2004.
Mr. Chavan said Congress felt that government should be in place as early as possible.
It has been over a week since the results of the elections were announced on October 22.
The talks with NCP are expected to resume tomorrow when NCP leader Praful Patel, who has been abroad, returns to the capital.
Highly-placed Congress sources said a solution is likely to emerge by November 2.
Mr. Chavan said the government formation talks are expected to gain momentum tomorrow as leaders of both the parties would be in the capital.
Asked whether he would meet Congress chief Sonia Gandhi on Sunday, Mr.Chavan said he would do so after the talks are over at the general secretary level.
The Chief Minister dismissed reports that he along with NCP Legislative Party leader Chhagan Bhujbal would take oath first followed by the council of ministers at a later date.
He said talks with NCP are centered on the number of ministries for each of the allies.
“We have 84 members in the Assembly, including two pre-poll allies while NCP has 62 legislators. The strength in the House has to be considered while deciding on the number of ministers,” he said.
Meanwhile, alliance sources said a breakthrough in the stalemate is likely by Monday.
Citing the difference in the number of seats, Congress has demanded a larger share in the government. Maharashtra can have a 43-member council of ministers. The outgoing government has 24 ministers belonging to NCP and 19 to Congress.
NCP has been insisting on the 1999 formula of power sharing under which the chief minister was to be of Congress and his deputy of NCP while the two partners in the ruling coalition had 21 ministers each and key ministries like home, finance and power went to NCP.
The term of the outgoing assembly ends on November 3.