Giving conflicting signals, Shiv Sena today staked claim to the post of Leader of Opposition in the Maharashtra Assembly but appeared open to conciliatory talks with BJP over participation in the government “whenever it comes forward”.
In a sudden move a day after its chief Uddhav Thackeray served an ultimatum to BJP to come clear within two days on the issue of taking NCP’s support for survival of its government, Sena submitted a letter to the Assembly Secretary asking him to accord its Legislature Party leader Eknath Shinde Leader of Opposition’s status.
Hours later, Uddhav, while addressing party workers, said the decision to stake claim to LoP’s post was taken because Congress wanted the position on the ground that Sena was part of the BJP-led NDA and, if that were to happen, “we would have been left nowhere”.
After BJP and Sena, Congress is the third largest party in the Assembly with 42 MLAs.
“We have written a letter (to the Assembly secretary) staking claim to the Leader of Opposition’s post. Congress did not want the Sena to claim this post. But do not mistake our patience for weakness. We will not allow anyone to undermine Sena’s strength,” Uddhav said.
He said had Sena continued negotiations with BJP over power sharing, it would have ended up “Na ghar ka na ghat ka (it would have fallen between two stools)”.
“They (BJP) leaders say that talks are going on. Had we continued with these talks, we would have been left nowhere today. But we are ready to hold talks with them whenever they come forward,” he said.
Earlier in the day, Uddhav had appeared to shut the door on future talks with BJP when a letter from him seeking LoP’s post for Shinde was delivered to the state Assembly Secretary Anant Kalse.
“A letter written by our President Uddhav Thackeray was submitted to Anant Kalse informing him that Eknath Shinde has been appointed as the leader of the Shiv Sena Legislature Party,” party spokesperson Neelam Gorhe told reporters.
“Since we are the second largest party in the House with 63 MLAs, it is appropriate to appoint our leader as Leader of Opposition. We expect Shinde’s name to be announced as early as possible,” she said.
However, with Uddhav saying talks were still possible if BJP came forward, suspense over Sena’s participation in the government has been revived once again.