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Congress Wants Equal Share of Ministerial Berths in Maharashtra: Sources

Amey Tirodkar |
As meetings between Shiv Sena, NCP and Congress begin, the most challenging task is to thrash out a power sharing deal.

Mumbai: The first meeting between Shiv Sena, Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) and Congress took place in Mumbai on Thursday. To avoid media glare, the meeting was held at secret place between eight leaders of these three parties. Reportedly, they discussed the proposed common minimum programme (CMP). 

"We have put forward our issues with Shiv Sena. Now it has been decided that the major common points of manifestos of Shiv Sena as well as NCP and Congress (Shiv Sena despite contesting in an alliance with BJP had released its independent manifesto whereas Congress and NCP had their manifesto of alliance) will be included in CMP.  Sena too has agreed to it," a senior Congress leader said.

The CMP will be a meeting ground for these ideologically opposed opponent parties, and after its finalisation, both Congress-NCP will indicate government formation jointly with Sena. 

However, sources familiar with the developments said that the prime contentious issue is sharing of power. "Power is the goal for all three. Sena wants the chief minister’s post. But what it is ready to give in exchange of the CM’s post will be a key issue," said a NCP leader. 

Maharashtra can have a council of 42 ministers, including the chief minister. Till now, these three parties have never joined hands in recent history. Earlier, there would be two prominent parties where the share of ministerial berths used to be equal. Now Congress leaders, sources said, were also trying to get an equal share in council of ministers. 

Sena being biggest party in this alliance has 56 MLAs and it has garnered support from eight independents. So, the tally is 64. NCP is number two with 54 MLAs and Congress has 44. If an equal number of berths is accepted, then all the three will get 14 ministers each.

"Whether such a proposal by Congress would be acceptable to the other two parties remains to be seen. There might be a solution like the ministerial berths would be decided on the basis of the proportion of MLAs, so that, Sena and NCP could have almost similar berths and Congress slightly less," said a Sena leader. 

Sources also said that that a discussion on ministerial berths has already opened. From Shiv Sena side, Uddhav Thackeray and Sanjay Raut, from NCP side Ajit Pawar and Jayant Patil and from Congress side Balasaheb Thorat and Ashok Chavan are trying to seal the deal. 

Another important issue will be the post of Deputy Chief Minister. Whether there would be only deputy or two is the question. If Congress failed to get the deputy CM’s post, then it will surely claim the Speaker’s post, said sources.

In Maharashtra's legislative council, NCP has the position of chairmanship and Shiv Sena deputy chairmanship. If Congress gets the Speaker’s post, then Sena will try to get the Deputy Speaker’s post, it is being speculated.

"We are expecting to end the entire negotiations by November 20, so that the process of government formation can be started. The leadership of all three parties is well aware about the public pressure to settle the negotiations at the earliest and form the government," said Congress leader.

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