Union Minister Nitin Gadkari has canceled all his appointments and is flying to Nagpur, signaling a spurt of activity in the standoff between the BJP and its ally Shiv Sena with just a day to the deadline for government formation in Maharashtra.
Sources say Nitin Gadkari, a senior BJP leader of Maharashtra, will meet with Mohan Bhagwat, the chief of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), the BJP’s ideological mentor.
Mr Gadkari confirmed his sudden flight and told the media he would “meet people” in Nagpur over the “current situation in Maharashtra”.
Mr Gadkari’s name has floated around as a possible compromise candidate for Chief Minister if that is what it takes to resolve the deadlock with the Shiv Sena. The Sena’s leadership is believed to be deeply upset with Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis, who has rejected the party’s demand for sharing the top post on a rotational basis.
Mr Fadnavis’s meeting with Mohan Bhagwat on Tuesday night is seen as significant in this context.
The Shiv Sena, which refers to Mr Fadnavis as “outgoing chief minister”, is not that strongly opposed to Mr Gadkari, a veteran Maharashtra leader. Mr Gadkari, who was a minister in an earlier BJP-Sena government in Maharashtra, was close to Sena founder Bal Thackeray and has reportedly maintained cordial ties with his son Uddhav Thackeray, the current chief.
Over the weekend, Sena leader Kishore Tiwari wrote to Mohan Bhagwat suggesting that Nitin Gadkari be asked to resolve the crisis.
The BJP and Shiv Sena won a clear majority in last month’s Maharashtra election, with 105 seats for the BJP and 56 for the Sena. But since the verdict on October 24, government formation has been stalled by the Sena’s demand for a “50:50” deal it says was discussed with BJP chief Amit Shah earlier this year, before the national elections.
With just 24 hours to form government, the Sena remains firm on its chief minister for half the term and an equal share in portfolios. The BJP has maintained that Devendra Fadnavis will continue as Chief Minister for a full term.
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