After series of marathon meetings and deliberations and conflicting reports, Monday ended with the Shiv Sena still far away from the Chief Minister’s Office with the Congress keeping its cards close to its chest. While officially there is another round of meeting expected in Delhi on Tuesday, where the top Congress leadership will decide the future strategy, however, latest reports say that it is almost decided that the Grand Old Party of India will not be in coalition with the Shiv Sena. Though some say that the unique alliance of Shiv Sena, NCP and the Congress will keep the BJP out of power in Maharashtra, the ground reality is that Congress interim chief Sonia Gandhi and her son Rahul Gandhi are not in favour of any alliance with the Shiv Sena.
An Indian Express report on Tuesday said that Gandhi and her son may keep the option open for an alliance with the NCP, which has been given an 8:30 pm deadline by Governor Bhagat Singh Koshyari. The Indian Express report states that the Maharashtra Congress lawmakers did want to back Sena, however the Gandhis believe it is impossible to bridge the divide of ideology. The report further says that top leadership in general and Sonia Gandhi in particular are unwilling to bond with Sena in Maharashtra. The report says that during the crucial meeting at 10, Janpath on Monday, the not-so-cordial ties between Gandhis and Sena leadership also came up. In fact, at one point in its mouthpiece Saamana, Shiv Sena had taken a sharp swipe at Sonia Gandhi and termed her as ‘Italian Mummy’. Shiv Sena founder Bal Thackeray was openly critical about Sonia Gandhi’s foreign origin.
The Indian Express report also quoted Pranab Mukherjee’s book, where the former President wrote that, ‘Sonia Gandhi was not enthusiastic about my meeting Bal Thackeray and advised me to avoid it if possible. Sonia Gandhi’s reservations about Thackeray were based on her own perception of his policies.’ Mukherjee had gone and met Thackeray in the run-up to the 2012 presidential election despite Sonia Gandhi’s reservation against such meeting.
It would be interesting to see how Congress will arrive at a decision on Maharashtra and the clock ticks on the Governor’s deadline for the NCP.
On Monday evening, the Shiv Sena had claimed that the NCP and Congress have agreed "in-principle" to back its government without the BJP in Maharashtra but failed to get letters of support from the political rivals before the deadline set by the Governor who rejected its plea for three more days to do so. As the impasse in government formation entered the 18th day and the prospect of President's rule loomed, the Congress appeared not wanting to take a hasty decision to align with its ideological rival, and decided to hold further talks with its pre-poll ally Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) on the issue of supporting the Sena.