“We are prepared for a long dialogue but too much bad blood has flowed between us and the Sena in the past one month. So, the Sena needs to come out with a clear statement on what it expects from us and what it would give us,” a senior state BJP leader said.
“Confidence-building must be mutual. If there’s no breakthrough, we’ll go ahead and form a minority government with the backing of the NCP and smaller parties like the Bahujan Mahasangh.”
Manohar Lal Khattar has emerged the front-runner for chief minister in Haryana, though a final decision is likely to be taken only tomorrow. In Maharashtra, the BJP is still in two minds despite a Sangh nudge in favour of “natural ideological ally” Sena.
Union home minister Rajnath Singh and BJP general secretary J.P. Nadda have deferred their Mumbai visit to oversee the election of the legislature party leader, which now seems possible only after Diwali (Thursday).
“Many of the MLAs want to be in their constituencies for Diwali,” a source said.
He added that neither Rajnath nor Nadda intended to reach out to Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray before getting “a formal proposal” from him. “The Sena has to decide if it wants to realign with us or not,” a source said.
One BJP source admitted he didn’t know how to “decode” the “contradictory” signals from Uddhav.
If Sena mouthpiece Saamana has pilloried the BJP for being “all foam” and “failing to kick up waves, let alone a tsunami” in the polls, the party’s sole member in the Union cabinet, Anant Geete, was set to attend a dinner at the Prime Minister’s residence tonight.
“Yes, he’s certainly going to the PM’s dinner,” a Geete aide confirmed.
After the BJP elects a legislature party leader, it will stake claim to form a government, sources said. A special Assembly session will have to be convened for proof of majority.
“At this juncture, the Sena will have to take a call,” a source said.
Sources said that as a possible alternative to accepting NCP support, the BJP was also approaching Independents and some smaller parties that account for 14 MLAs.
The prospective tally of 137 (the BJP has 122 seats and ally Rashtriya Samaj Paksha has one) would still be short of the majority mark of 145 in a House of 288. But the BJP might be able to use this group as another bargaining chip with the Sena. Two small parties with five MLAs have ruled out support.
In Haryana, the BJP’s prime challenge is balancing two opposite pulls: its fears of social tensions if the dominant Jats find the non-Jat Khattar unacceptable, and its need to deliver to non-Jats —who voted heavily for the party — the tacit promise of ending Jat rule.
Khattar’s “probity” would be a plus, sources said. “An honest chief minister can keep his ministerial colleagues on a leash, like (Narendra) Modiji has done at the Centre,” a source said.
A decision is likely tomorrow because the BJP wants to form the government by Diwali. Sangh and BJP sources drew parallels between the career paths of Modi and Khattar, a Sangh pracharak “loaned” to the BJP who spent years as an organising secretary before entering electoral politics.
--The Telegraph, Calcutta