Fri, 06 Dec 2019

By By Prashant SoodNew Delhi [India], Nov 11 (ANI): Aligning with the Shiv Sena to form an alternative government in Maharashtra is not likely to be an easy decision for the Congress as the two parties are "not like-minded" or "ideologically aligned".

Sources said the Congress in the past has been reluctant to have any truck with the Shiv Sena but a change in circumstances, in which BJP has refused to form government in Maharashtra, may evoke a change of stance from the party.

Shiv Sena Minister Arvind Sawant has resigned from the Central government led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and a section of Congress MLAs are keen to be a part of the non-BJP alternative in Maharashtra.

For years, Shiv Sena has been the BJP's oldest ally and also one of its vocal critics. The party had been taking potshots at the Central government during its previous tenure and had even boycotted the no-confidence motion against the government in July last year.

Congress sources said Rahul Gandhi, who was the party chief during the Lok Sabha elections, was against any understanding with the Shiv Sena.

They said party chief Sonia Gandhi had also been reluctant to extend support to the Shiv Sena to form the government in Maharashtra and is learnt to have conveyed this during her meeting with NCP chief Sharad Pawar last week.

The Congress apparently has differences of views over 'Hindutva' politics of Shiv Sena. However, party leader Aaditya Thackeray has said that his party's Hindutva ideology was different from that of the BJP.

The Congress, which finished fourth in Maharashtra assembly polls, also has to weigh in long-term consequences of its decision concerning Shiv Sena to its "secular" politics.

The Congress has large political stakes outside Maharashtra and has to make a decision, which does not adversely affect its support base in other states, especially among minorities.

The party had joined hands with the Janata Dal-Secular in Karanataka to keep BJP out of power but the BJP has eventually returned to power in the state.

Ahead of Lok Sabha polls, the Congress had said talks can be held only with "like-minded and ideologically aligned parties.""There will not be an alignment between their ideology and ours," a top party leader had said during an informal meeting with journalists.

Sources said the Congress will also seriously weigh if it can extend outside support to a likely Shiv Sena-NCP alliance or it will be part of the government under a Sena chief minister.

Joining hands with the Shiv Sena will also amount to ceding the entire opposition space to BJP in Maharashtra.

The NCP, which fought Maharashtra assembly elections with the Congress, has left it to its alliance partner to take a final call on the alliance with the Sena, saying no government is possible without the support of Congress.

The BJP declined to form the government in Maharashtra after differences with the Shiv Sena over power-sharing. The two parties fought the assembly polls together and won an absolute majority but the talks broke off over Shiv Sena's insistence on having the chief minister's post for two-and-a-half years.

The Sena says it was part of the deal between the two parties but the BJP says there was no such understanding. The BJP won 105 seats in the assembly, Shiv Sena 56, NCP 54 and Congress 44. (ANI)

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