Deputy Chief Minister of Maharashtra and leader of the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) Chhagan Bhujbal has said the Congress can form the government in the State and his party is ready to support it from outside till the impasse over power sharing is resolved. He was speaking to reporters here on Tuesday after a meeting with Governor S.C. Jamir.
However, Union Minister of State for Civil Aviation and NCP leader Praful Patel later clarified in New Delhi that a Congress-NCP government was on the cards and the nitty-gritty of the governance arrangement would be finalised soon. Maintaining that Mr. Bhujbal’s remark was being misinterpreted, Mr. Patel said there was no question of parting ways with the Congress. “We contested this election in alliance with the Congress and the people have voted the two parties in.” As for the delay in giving NCP’s letter of support, he said: “If the Governor asks for it, we will give it immediately.”
Mr. Jamir held separate meetings with Chief Minister Ashok Chavan, Mr. Bhujbal and NCP State president R.R. Patil at the Raj Bhavan.
Mr. Bhujbal said: “The Governor asked us to form the government as the process was getting delayed. We told him we are prepared for the Congress to form the government. We want the Congress government and back it fully. There are some minor issues, which need to be sorted out. Once they are resolved, we will join the government.” About the Governor’s meeting with the leaders, Mr. Patel said the NCP made its position clear to him lest any other party try to fish in troubled waters in view of the delay in government formation. Insisting that the delay was not impacting the administration in any way as the mandate was in favour of the same dispensation continuing, the Minister dismissed demands for a mini swearing-in where the Chief Minister and the Deputy Chief Minister take oath; leaving the Cabinet formation for another day.
“In a coalition, it is better to take time and work out an agenda for governance at the start itself. We took two weeks in 1999, 12 days in 2004 and may take a couple of days more this time, but a Congress-NCP government will be in place.”
Commenting on the bone of contention, Mr. Bhujbal had earlier said the Congress wanted more ministries and departments. He denied that the NCP was trying to pressure the Congress with the talk of outside support. “We have not asked for anything more [than what was decided in the earlier arrangements]. In 2004, the basic formula [of 1999] was followed. They had less number of MLAs, yet the Chief Minister was from their party. Therefore, they gave us more portfolios. We are merely saying let’s go ahead with the formula which we have followed for the past 10 years,” he said. The NCP has already agreed to return the three additional ministerial berths that came to its kitty in 2004 in lieu of giving up chief ministership.